Doctoral Programs Student Directory

Rafael Burgos-MirabalRafael Burgos-Mirabal

Ph.D. Candidate in Organization Studies




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I am a doctoral candidate in Organization Studies. Prior to starting my doctoral work at UMass, I worked in the textbook industry for ten years (1996-2006). My participation in processes whereby pedagogical technology is co-shaped and transferred back and forth among heterogeneous actors and institutional constituencies, has led me to explore further some inter-organizational aspects of innovation and commercialization. Before pursuing textbook publishing as a career, I was studying aspects of knowledge transfer that were somewhat farther removed in time: the translation of Arabic (and Greek) scientific and philosophical works in Western medieval Europe via processes of individual and institutional collaboration taking place in Spain from the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries. This is graduate work that I was pursuing at Harvard (1989-1996). I entered that program after having completed my bachelor's degree in medieval Spanish literature, also at Harvard.


I study inter-organizational dynamics among organizations belonging to different institutional and societal realms of activity: academe/education, industry, and government. My current (dissertation) work focuses specifically on the phenomenon of commercialization of university science research at the Massachusetts state level, ca. 1950- present, using the analytical concepts of institutional logics and institutional work (organizational institutionalism). My interests are taking me to consider sociohistorical, philosophical, and political-scientific disciplinary perspectives in the observation, data analysis, and understanding of the current transformations that the ecology of postindustrial institutions are undergoing.


I have taught the undergraduate Introduction to Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management courses at the School of Management. There as well, I am currently teaching the capstone BBA course on business policy and strategic management.


I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and have been in Massachusetts since I left Puerto Rico to attend college.



Peer reviewed publications

"Societal implications of nanotechnology: A brief commentary." Nanotechnology Reviews. 1(March 2012): 183-186.

Abstract: Reasons abound for assessing the potential advances of nanoscale manipulation with much optimism. This was even more so on the eve of the creation of the 2003 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. At a certain level of logic there seemed to be no option then but to forge ahead. The voices helping to frame the initiative heralded the new wave of nanoscience as the key to future competitiveness and human happiness. In this commentary, my emphasis is on bringing to awareness other counterbalancing perspectives regarding the societal implications of R&D activity. I underscore the repercussions that the incorporation and naturalization of nanotechnology within society perforce starts to have in the midst of human life and organization. I summarize (i) how the top policy, although limited and internally contradictory with regards to engaging R&D pluralistically and socio-technically, provides outlets for reckoning with the inevitable repercussions of the social deployment of nanotechnology; (ii) what some of the societal challenges with which nanotechnology is confronting us are; and (iii) what current research is being carried out that provides models for subsequent nanoscience-related policy development in the right socio-technical direction.


Accepted for publication: "A perspective in search of methodological clarity: The case of sociomateriality." International Journal of Science in Society.

Abstract: Proponents of sociomaterial, or material-semiotic, approaches (MSA) to social analysis state the inherent problem of dualistic agency at the basis of conventional sociological representations. They recommend an alternative theorizing of "the social" for understanding the object of a sociology (that is, social activity or "the social") in much of its nondualistic complexity and irreducibility. In practice, though, these promising theoretical suggestions still require us on-site students of the social to develop systematic methodologies for approaching the desideratum of gathering data on complex sociality, analyzing the data, and analytically accounting or representing the social-as-heterogeneous processes in less, rather than more, reducible ways.  Though the origins of the problematics in modernity may be traced back to Kantian/Hegelian dialectics of the structure-superstructure sort, here I first limit my sketch to the immediate historical antecedents of MSA in anthropology's crisis of representation, and in the epistemological revisions brought by the studies of scientific knowledge (SSK) (1970s-1980s). Then, I re-present some of MSA's philosophic-theoretical solutions to the problems around splitting the material-semiotic binary, discuss some extant methodologizations derived from those premises, available to practicing sociologists, and present some comments about the practical and political limits inherent in such methodologizing.



Invited presentations

"Technology and Development in the (north and south) Americas," Academic Session for the Winter 2013 Institute for Training and Development (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay), University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 28 January 2013.

Summary: In this presentation, students were exposed to issues related to the ethos of the postindustrial research university (through the Americas) as organizing sponsor of inter-institutional linkages toward regional and national economic growth (via the institutionalization of strategic and translational research agendas). This third mission for the research university has been incentivized inter-institutionally (via government-industry-academe interplays) from its former "self" (from the mid-nineteenth through the first half of the twentieth centuries) when it primarily fulfilled the now two classical missions of teaching and basic, or fundamental, research. Then students debated issues of the international transfer of technology in the contexts of (1) the current policy regimes (e.g. TRIPS) and (2) dialectical perspectives on transnational development and its directionality: whether top-down, bottom-up, or hybrid conceptualizations.


"A case of truth lying in the middle: Does successful technology transfer actually happen somewhere between broad policies and local practices?" Presentation at the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 13 April 2011.

Summary: In this session, the audience was exposed to the historical periodization of the organization of research and development in the U.S. (and, earlier, in Germany) from the 1600s to the present day. Then a discussion followed about some of the structures (policies) and practices that the current hybrid arrangements crossing the macro-institutional matrices (government, academe, and industry) are calling for negotiation within several realms of activity, and from several perspectives of social actors organizationally oriented by distinct goals, incentive structures, roles, and norms.