Policy values in priority setting
Principal Investigator: Erik Brattström
This PhD project aims to explore how policy values are enacted and embodied in the priority setting process for science and technology (S&T) and how the effects of the priorities on epistemic governance, that is, the formal and informal rules and regulations that structure and steer the production of new knowledge, can be understood from a policy values perspective. The project draws on cases from government agency initiated priority processes in Sweden.
The effects of research policy instruments
This project focuses on analysing the effects of policy instruments for governing public science. The assumption is that instruments applied by funding agencies for the purpose of steering and accounting for research, have intended and unintended effects on the way research is carried out. This project seeks to identify and analyse such effects by applying the notion of instruments affordances. This is the idea that instruments, as they are applied, tend to make certain actions more or less likely, as well as more or less possible or desirable, as a function of the instrument context and actor themselves. The first two years of the project will focus on the Centres of Excellence funding instruments.
Changes in funding practices and research behavior
Principal Investigator: Dietmar Braun
Funding agencies have to prove themselves in an increasingly turbulent environment. A large number of change dimensions are putting stress on these organisations. The question is to what extent funding agencies are "muddling through" or are "adapting" their organisation and funding policy practices and with what consequences for research conditions. Change dimensions are in a nutshell the increasing importance of the supra- and international level where funding agencies must compete, collaborate, and coordinate in order to maintain their identity and also their organizational survival; a widening demand - supply gap caused by transformations in the financing of university research and career expectations on the one hand and stagnating resources for funding agencies on the other; disconnected policies with regard to the university sector and funding agencies leading often to confrontations between the two types of organisations; increasing demands for a funding policy that demonstrates "value for society"; the integration of interdisciplinary and "groundbreaking" research as part of a general innovation strategy; an increased sensibility of policymakers to effectiveness and efficiency of public sector organisations.
Some examples of change processes that have been introduced to cope with these challenges include: a re-organisation of the organisational structure similar to universities with a stronger authority for the management; continuing organisational evaluation procedures; and frequent adaptation of review procedures, funding instruments and their modalities.
This research project seeks to investigate the above through a twelve country comparison of European basic science funding agencies. The study is designed to take stock of change processes during the last ten to fifteen years and their implications for the intermediary role funding agencies traditionally play in national research systems. Further implications of adaptation processes in funding agencies for research behaviour are taken into account.
The study further attempts to ascertain what if any differences exist across countries in relation to adaptation and coping strategies employed by funding agencies and what, if any, are the potential consequences for knowledge production. What do the changes within funding agencies signify for university researchers in terms of time management, competition, certainty/uncertainty about future research conditions, stratification structures, research practices and freedom of choice?
Using a larger comparative base the research project can also contribute to an understanding of European convergence processes in funding and the influence of "learning" and "competition" on coping strategies in national funding agencies. This allows us to make informed guesses about general conditions and consequences for doing research in Europe.
Funding instruments and the institutionalization of new norms in the research system
Principal Investigator: Merle Jacob
Two recent OECD studies (Hicks, 2012; Jacob, 2013) show that competitive funding is an important component of governance and that the same instruments may have different impacts in different contexts. The study of third party funding and its impacts on universities and on knowledge creation is a fairly new area for academic study and significant gaps exist in our knowledge. We propose to address this by performing a series of studies on the impact of competitive funding on the science system. This study will focus on how funding is and can be used to communicate desired normative and behavioural changes to research communities. This is investigated through the analysis of four funding calls, FLEXIT, Career Postdoc, FORMAS Centres of Excellence and the Research Council Professorship. The investigation will include semi structured interviews with funders and researchers, analysis of call texts, and discourse analysis of a selection of applications in response to the calls. We assume that communication to younger researchers represents bottom up efforts to change norms and introduce new behaviour while those directed at senior researchers, e.g. CoE programmes, are top down. The instruments selected for analysis are intended to illustrate this as well as serve as instantiations of more general governance imperatives.
Dynamics of Higher Education Governance in Europe: The Case of the U-Multirank
Principal Investigator: Niilo Kauppi
Scholars have drawn attention to the technical deficiencies of league tables, dismissing them as blunt instruments. While everyone agrees on their shortcomings, they continue to serve as important governance tools and for this reason, ought to be analysed to assess their possible impacts on higher education. This project focuses on the development of the European Commission’s tool U-multirank (multi-dimensional ranking of higher education institutions) that started in 2008 and which produced its first ranking in 2014.
Since the creation of the so-called Shanghai list of world universities in 2003, an intensification of competition in HE has occurred. Today competition does not take place only between universities, countries and international organisations such as the OECD as commissioners of knowledge, but has moved to a meta level, to a competition between the providers of knowledge that frame HE (past and future) developments in global terms. Specialized research institutions such as the Centre for Higher Education (CHE) in Germany have become more central in HE governance as institutions of HE have become global governable objects. In this process, the role and influence of transnational HE policy networks has increased. This project will explore the development of these networks and the strategies that led to the creation of U-multirank. Another clear winner of these developments is the European Commission. Until recently the European Union has had a limited role in higher education. Member states had primary responsibility in organising their higher education systems. However, since the 1990s with the Bologna process and increased cooperation through an Open method of coordination) (OMC) with intergovernmental ‘soft law’ and public policy instruments such as guidelines, benchmarks and sharing best practice, the Commission is today an important transnational science organisation. It took an active role in devising an alternative league table of universities, the U-multirank, that would challenge dominant league tables, the so-called Shanghai ranking, produced today by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, and the THE (Times Higher Education) ranking.
The project will explore these issues more in detail through official documentation, secondary literature and interviews with key actors such as European Commission officials, university administrators and academics.
A multi-level analysis into constitutive effects of new research governance mechanisms in the Netherlands
Project Team: Paul Wouters, Sarah de Rijcke (Principal Investigator)
Over the last three decades, public scientific research has increasingly been made accountable for its activities through a range of new measures and procedures. As part of these broad developments, the sheer range and scale of performance indicators used to monitor and govern all kinds of research-related activities has expanded significantly.
Given that epistemic structures are not static, researchers and institutions have to continuously react and adapt to evaluating practices and their effects. A frequently raised concern is that indicators can become goals in themselves, rather than simply being tools to measure research outcomes. Despite these and other growing concerns, to date the extent of the effects and the efficacy of researcher and research team reactions to evaluation measures have not been studied in depth.
CWTS’ contribution to KNOWSCIENCE will be to observe and analyse the formative effects of structural governance measures on the production and content of research. We will look into the various effects of new evaluation systems and metrics, and analyse the interplay between formal and informal processes in research environments. Through scientometric and ethnographic methods, new governance structures and assessment systems at a biomedical Dutch research centre will be analysed at three levels: institutional, research group, and individual.
At the institutional level, CWTS will focus on the integration of research and patient groups as partners in designing and implementing a new institutional agenda focused on patient-centred research. These developments have been articulated alongside new societal relevance criteria being introduced into the Dutch national evaluation system. This part of the study will focus on the development of the new agenda and on how new peer review procedures have sought to move away from reliance on ‘traditional’ publication-based indicators. At a research group level the effects of new incentives and metrics will be analysed to assess their efficacy for aligning research objectives with clinical needs; in the specific practices negotiated at multidisciplinary environments; and with respect to collaboration with other societal actors. On an individual level, the study will centre on how new incentives and metrics affect the procedures for talent selection and promotion to full professorship.
Defining success: global rankings and the evolution of research university
Emulation of successful models is a major driver of institutional and policy change. The diffusion of these models into new environments creates broad avenues for institutional innovation. In this study we will look at the recent evolution of the research university conceived as a cluster of institutional and organisational patterns. How is that evolution affected by the rapid globalisation of the knowledge production and technological innovation? How do academic leaders and national policy makers extract ‘lessons’ from the multiple parallel experiments occurring worldwide? These endeavours are assisted by a variety of information infrastructures, of which global university rankings is one recent addition. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role(s) that information infrastructure such as rankings can play in the evolution of the research university and how they themselves are likely to evolve in the near future.
National Evaluation Systems (NES) and their impact on universities, researchers and research fields
This research will investigate the impact that higher education and research (HER) system based National Evaluation Systems (NESs) with different characteristics, have on the science system, including universities, research groups, researchers and research fields. It will address: By what mechanisms do NESs affect university structures, management and strategies? By what mechanisms do NESs affect researchers’ research practices? By what mechanisms do NESs affect research fields, if at all?
This activity will involve the development of novel and enhanced characterisations and typologies, including for NESs, universities, research groups, researchers and research fields. It will also explore the mechanisms by which NESs produce impact and effects, if at all, within the science system. The research will draw upon study of different national cases, including a selection of universities and researchers based in different NES settings, and a variety of research fields. A mixture of document analysis, interviews, research trails and network analysis of issues such as research group collaborations, might be used.