This article examines the challenges and tensions that inhere in university-based boundary organizations.
We begin by reconceptualizing the theory of boundary organizations, bringing it into greater alignment with the realities of the current university environment.
Using in-depth interviews, documentary analysis and ethnographic field work, this framework is applied to a university-based boundary organization attempting to reconcile the needs of water policymakers, university administrators, university departments, and funding agencies. These stakeholders place diverse, conflicting demands on the boundary organization. Those demands create four sets of enduring tensions requiring ongoing management by the boundary organization.
However, the ability to manage these tensions is structured by constituents' relative levels of power, legitimacy, and saliency. We show the importance of adaptive boundary management for managing these enduring tensions, while also concluding that the demands of some stakeholders may be incommensurable.
The article closes with a number of concrete suggestions for enhancing the efficacy of university-based boundary organizations.