Organizational design of University laboratories: Task allocation and lab performance in Japanese bioscience laboratories

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A university laboratory is a fundamental unit of scientific production, but optimizing its organizational design is a formidable task for lab heads, who play potentially conflicting roles of manager, educator, and researcher. Drawing on cross-sectional data from a questionnaire survey and bibliometric data on Japanese biology professors, this study investigates task allocation inside laboratories. Results show a general pattern that lab heads play managerial roles and members (e.g., students) are engaged in labor-intensive tasks (e.g., experiment), while revealing a substantial variation among laboratories. Further examining how this variation is related to lab-level scientific productivity, this study finds that productive task allocation differs by context. In particular, results suggest that significant task overlap across status hierarchies is more productive for basic research, and that rigidly separated task allocation is more productive in applied research. However, optimal task allocation, with regard to scientific productivity, might conflict with other goals of academic organizations, particularly training of future scientists. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of these findings.


External organisations
  • University of Tokyo
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration
  • Public Administration Studies


  • biology, laboratory, organizational design, scientific productivity, task allocation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-622
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015 Apr
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes