Organizational Framework:
Organizational Drift, Life
Cycle, and Agency Theory
In theory, research centers can be seen to rely on an “ideal type” contin-
uum between two loci of control. At one end is the investigator-controlled
research center that allows all decisions for research activities to be made
by the individual researcher. At the other extreme are research activities
almost totally controlled by the institution, an “organization centric” model
with regard to research activity-related decisions, for example, Edgewood
VX nerve gas facility in Maryland. Between these two extremes, research
centers and universities’ research activities are controlled, formulated, and
implemented with various amounts of researcher–organizational controls.
One hypothesis is that research centers and universities vary between the
two points of individuality and centralized organizational control as the
life cycle of the organization progresses; more specically, as the research
governance process matures, the research center or university will move
to greater organizational controls given increased environmental pres-
sures from funding agencies. With the case study university, evidence was
found to support this occurrence (see Chapter 7). Other variables aecting
the mix of investigator- and organizational-centered structures include
the following: funding source (federal, state, or private), materials type
(e.g., U-235), research design, and facility functionality for use of hazard-
ous materials (HAZMAT).
e life cycle theory dictates that the organization will either grow or
contract throughout the existence of the organization. Life cycle theorists
30 • Compliance for Public Research Organizations
argue that changes occur to the organizational structure over time as the
organization, process, or product goes through dierent stages of develop-
ment. e organization in its initial development has a specic set of prop-
erties. e organization in response to both external pressures and internal
dynamics has its characteristics change over time—either staying in inter-
nal–external alignment, or failing to do so. us through time, the orga-
nization may expand, contract, or cease to exist. Bertram M. Gross (1968)
describes business organizations uctuating as the life cycle progresses by
either adjusting to the economic uctuations or by ceasing to exist.
Life cycle theorists generally argue that public organizations, not sub-
ject to market forces, are less likely to perish and more likely to undergo
renewal.” A university or the research components of it, for example,
would grow aer initial creation and success, and contract as resources
dissipate. At the time of contraction, the university will have to “renew”
itself by nding more resources, new research areas and perhaps reden-
ing its purpose. Public universities will also expand under the life cycle
theory model if new directives are imposed upon the organization from
an external force.
When new federal or state regulations are imposed on public institutions,
universities expand organizationally, that is, devote resources, to comply
with the new guidelines. Marshall W. Meyer (1979) states that environmen-
tal pressures outside public bureaus have substantial inuence over expan-
sion and contraction. In research areas, for example, a line of inquiry may
fall out of disfavor with funding agencies. Internal sunk costs in laboratory
equipment and personnel may not be adaptable to this environmental shi.
How quickly the organization adapts to the environment is not the central
issue for this research. e informing perspective is that over the course
of the development of research into areas involving hazardous materials,
environmental inuences, especially in the form of funding agencies and
their regulations, will cause aspects of the organization to change, grow,
decline, and renew. Consistent funding, for example, from the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) will lead the university to institutionalize NIH-
specic compliance procedures beyond any single researcher.
e life cycle perspectives on organizations argue that there are pre-
dictable patterns as organizations are born, mature, and end (Da 1995).
Organizational structure in the research center or university’s case will
change as the life cycle progresses. ese changes will dictate who the
actors are and what role the actors will play in the organization. Da
(1995) has four stages outlined for progression of the organization. e

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