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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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