To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

The projectification of university research: A study of resistance and accommodation of project management tools & techniques

Nina Fowler (Division of Industrial Engineering and Management, Department of Engineering Sciences Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden)
Marcus Lindahl (Division of Industrial Engineering & Management, Department of Engineering Sciences Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden)
David Sköld (Division of Industrial Engineering and Management, Department of Engineering Sciences Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 5 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discuss and critically examine how formal project management (PM) tools and techniques affect the organization of university research.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is empirically grounded and explores how university researchers respond to an increasing emphasis on formalized PM methods to manage research work conducted within the university. The empirical material consists of 20 interviews with research staff working with engineering, natural and medical sciences at Uppsala University, Sweden. Describing how PM techniques are increasingly imposed upon the researchers, the paper analyses different modes of relating to the formalized toolsets, and discusses their accommodation and resistance within academia.

Findings

One key finding is how the PM formalization is resisted by partial accommodation and containment. This can be described in terms of an enactment of a front- and a backstage of the research organization. At the front-stage, formal PM technology and terminology is used by specially appointed research managers as means of presenting to funding agencies and other external parties. At the backstage, researchers carry out work in more traditional forms.

Practical implications

The findings indicate a challenge for research to comply with increased PM formalization and secure on-going open-ended research. Second, the paper points toward a risk of young researchers being nudged out into “front-stage” administration with little chance of returning to “backstage” research.

Originality/value

This paper builds upon a growing area of the critical analysis of PM practice, offering insights into the tension between the values and norms of university research and an on-going formalization of PM in some organizational contexts.

Keywords

Citation

Fowler, N., Lindahl, M. and Sköld, D. (2015), "The projectification of university research: A study of resistance and accommodation of project management tools & techniques", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 9-32. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-10-2013-0059

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited