I find that many professors are to some extent supervising employees in the industry. They are helping the industry guys publish papers or solve difficult problems.

I don't know what motivates them to spend their time on that. I thought there are three possible reasons: 1) they can introduce their students to the company; 2) they keep up with industry trends through that method; 3) they are paid. I once heard that some professors have some side hustles and earn some consulting fees, but I am not sure.

How are academia and industry bridged?

  • 2
    (4) the distinction between academia and industry is artificial
    – avid
    Jul 7, 2021 at 13:06
  • 1
    As a grad student I spent a lot of time at Bell Labs, doing experiments with folks there. What was in it for them? Good relationships, good students, good experiments - that's what.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 7, 2021 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


"Supervising" may be overstating the case. Collaborations, of course, can be valuable if a faculty person is interested in applications of theory to real world problems. The same collaborations can be valuable to industry if theoretical expertise is needed and not present in the company. Papers arising out of such collaborations can be as valuable as any other.

Some industry folk work in the other direction, coming to the university to collaborate on things of mutual interest.

The collaborations I've done haven't been paid, but resulted in fairly informal grants that I could use for travel and other research support. Some (not all) of the (industry) people I worked with were doctoral students at the university and their research was peripherally related to the project, though not directly. It was a learning experience all around. One of the projects I was involved with resulted in a major change of direction in an important segment of the company. They were, in fact, seeking solutions to important problems from academics. A couple of us were able to provide that assistance.

Side hustles, such as a separate business (an accounting professor working for an accounting firm, say), are possible and do happen, but most universities will control them in some way, often by forbidding them for full time faculty. They may be more important in those places where faculty salary is very low.

  • I'm not sure any professor would call consulting or other collaborations a 'side hustle'.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 7, 2021 at 22:35
  • No, @JonCuster, but there are such hustles - completely independent work. Maybe I need to clarify the last paragraph.
    – Buffy
    Jul 7, 2021 at 22:39
  • Seems to me a ‘side hustle’ is driving for Uber, not doing your professional (professorial) work with other people. Hustle is just too close to scam in various meanings.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 7, 2021 at 23:12
  • @JonCuster, I was using the OPs words, actually.
    – Buffy
    Jul 7, 2021 at 23:32

Just as ballast to other ways of thinking about this: I myself will spend effort+time on questions that interest me, and where I think I can be helpful. :)

Yes, having a tenured faculty position makes this possible... but/and I do attempt to act in the interest of the people who pay my salary, namely, as Steven Gaal once put it, "the farmers and workers of Minnesota".

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