Logics in situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”: the case of researchers

Malin Härström (Department of Business Administration, School of Business, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden)

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management

ISSN: 1096-3367

Article publication date: 20 March 2023

Issue publication date: 18 December 2023

575

Abstract

Purpose

This paper examines the qualities of situations wherein hybrid professionals in knowledge-intensive public organizations (KIPOs) vary in their displays of conflicting institutional logics. Specifically, it examines the situations when individual researchers vary in their displays of a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic.

Design/methodology/approach

Analysis is grounded in an institutional logics perspective and founded on qualitative interviews with university researchers recurrently exposed to performance measurement and management.

Findings

The findings show that individual researchers display a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic in situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure” (i.e. perceptions of (not) being exposed to “what the performance measurement system wants to/can ‘see’”). In more detail, that a traditionalist academic logic is displayed more in situations of lower “perceived control exposure” whereas an academic performer logic is displayed comparatively more in situations of higher “perceived control exposure”.

Originality/value

These findings add insight into when there is room for resistance to pressures to perform in accordance with increasing performance measurement and when researchers more so tend to conform. While previous research has mostly studied such matters by emphasizing variation between researchers, this study points out the importance of situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”. Such insight is arguably also more broadly valuable since it adds to our understanding about hybridity of professionals in KIPOs and how to design and use performance measurement systems in relation to them.

Keywords

Citation

Härström, M. (2023), "Logics in situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”: the case of researchers", Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, Vol. 35 No. 6, pp. 78-99. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBAFM-04-2022-0064

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Malin Härström

License

Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode


1. Introduction

This study focuses on the so-called hybrid professionals (Blomgren and Waks, 2015) in knowledge-intensive public organizations (KIPOs); “… organizations that offer knowledge-intensive expert services to create public value (Grossi et al., 2019, p. 257)”. Specifically, it seeks to improve our understanding of how and why a set of conflicting institutional logics [1] come to blend (Pache and Thornton, 2020) and how this is coped with by hybrid professionals in terms of academic researchers. The premise is that the use of “private sector managerial principles” (Denis et al., 2015, p. 273) in the form of performance measurement systems (PMSs) has gained increasing traction compared to traditional modes of organizing also within academia, and that there is a need to know more about how public sector work is affected (e.g. de Waele et al., 2021; Rajala et al., 2020) in KIPOs (Grossi et al., 2019; Spanò et al., 2022). After all, research shows that also universities are now hybrid organizations (e.g. Jongbloed, 2015).

However, such research to date largely focuses on how it is variation between (groups of) professionals which helps explain that KIPOs, such as universities, have become “hybrid contexts” where multiple logics are displayed (e.g. Upton and Warshaw, 2017; Aleksandrov, 2020). That is, it has been shown how different “… individual actors (e.g. professionals and managers) … may have divergent values and thus act according to multiple logics (Grossi et al., 2019, p. 256, added emphasis)”. Or, when it comes to researchers in particular, that “Some … may feel oppressed by the duty to be accountable, while others may have become more independent and entrepreneurial, and specifically welcome pressures to produce research outputs (Argento et al., 2020, p. 2, emphasis added; see also Chatterjee et al., 2020)”.

This study adds to these findings by showing that also individual researchers can be seen as hybrid professionals (see Mountford and Cai, 2022; Spanò et al., 2022 about hybrid academics) in the sense that they display [2], what is referred to in this paper as, both a “traditionalist academic”- and an “academic performer” logic (Gendron, 2008, 2015) interchangeably. I thus pick up on observations suggesting that individual researchers sometimes become ambivalent toward (van Helden and Argento, 2020; Seger et al., 2022) or reluctantly conform to (Alvesson and Spicer, 2016; Kallio et al., 2021) PMSs. However, this study also goes beyond such aggregate labelling. After all, it shows how different situations can contribute to explain why researchers sometimes display a traditionalist academic logic more, while displaying an academic performer logic comparatively more in other situations. On these bases, the purpose of this study is to examine the qualities of situations wherein hybrid professionals in KIPOs vary in their displays of conflicting institutional logics. Specifically, to examine the qualities of situations when individual researchers vary in their displays of a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic.

Overall, my findings suggest that researchers vary in their displays of a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic in situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”. That is, in relation to perceptions of (not) being exposed to “what the PMS wants to/can ‘see’”. This situational triggering of “what you measure is what you get” untangles more general referrals to experiences of ambivalence or “reluctant conformance” by researchers through deepening our knowledge about the relative swing between the logics. That is, when the logics, relative to each other and to the situation at hand, are more or less displayed. This study also then provides a new explanation to when either logic is displayed in academia which moves beyond the extant six explanations depicted later in Section 2.1.2.

Furthermore, this study adds new insight into the workings and implications of increasingly using PMSs in academia by suggesting that these systems first and foremost play a role in relation to situations of higher “perceived control exposure”. That is, researchers tend to display an academic performer logic during those parts of their overall work process where their performance can easily be measured by the PMSs, such as when they seek external research funds and seek to publish in highly esteemed research journals. But then also, this study shows how an inability by an extant PMS to “see” all situations enables reflection about, and variation in displays of, institutional logics by researchers. This latter insight should be of importance also to broader research about KIPOs. After all, tensions between pressures to conform to PMSs on the one hand, and to continue to display traditional professional ideals on the other, are not unique to academic knowledge-intensive work practices (e.g. Grossi et al., 2019). In sum therefore, this study responds to heeds by, e.g. Agyemang and Broadbent (2015) and Argento et al. (2020) to advance our understandings about individual academics’ reactions to PMSs. It also responds to broader heeds to conduct more research in public hybrid organizations (Grossi et al., 2017, 2019, 2020; Dobija et al., 2019; Modell, 2021; Polzer, 2022) – especially with regard to heeds to enhance our understanding of displays of logics by hybrid professionals in these organizations (Grossi et al., 2019; Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019; Mountford and Cai, 2022). Finally, the study adds to broader heeds regarding how PMS design influences the potential to manage multiplicity of institutional logics (Gerdin, 2020; Chenhall et al., 2013).

The remainder of this study is structured as follows: First, the theoretical background is developed. Afterward, data collection methods and methods for analysis are accounted for. Then, the empirics are introduced and used to discuss situations when individual researchers vary in their displays of an academic performer- and a traditionalist academic logic.

2. Theoretical background

This section introduces how institutional logics and hybridity in KIPOs are understood in this study. It also creates a backdrop against which to later substantiate and position the notion of “perceived control exposure” (which is mostly empirically driven) in relation to extant research about PMSs in academia.

2.1 Institutional logics and hybridity in KIPOs

Research based on an institutional logics perspective has become a stream which furthers our understanding about what may be regarded as its core argument; that (analytically) there are institutional logics which matter for the understandings and behaviors of agents in particular settings (Zilber, 2013). As such, an institutional logics perspective is suitable in studying links between these logics and situated displays of them (e.g. Thornton et al., 2012). Also, since an institutional logics perspective is often adopted together with an interest in the existence of multiple and often competing logics (e.g. Greenwood et al., 2011; Pache and Santos, 2013), it is perhaps especially suitable to draw on when studies concern hybridity and thus co-occurrence of very different logics (Grossi et al., 2017). This latter focus on hybridity has furthermore, as mentioned, been picked up on by several scholars interested in the public sector. In this study, as also mentioned, focus lies on how professionals, i.e. individual researchers, become hybrid in their roles as providers of public value when conflicting institutional logics come to guide their work (Blomgren and Waks, 2015; Mountford and Cai, 2022; Denis et al., 2015).

In the introduction, it was argued that researchers may display a traditionalist academic logic and an academic performer logic. Institutional analyses are about aggregate and non-time-space bound guiding principles for action which should be treated as analytically separate from situated displays per se (Englund and Gerdin, 2008). Thus, while details of how researchers react to and behave in relation to performance measurement in academia is an empirical question (Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015), it is such aggregate characteristics of the two logics that are presented below.

2.1.1 A traditionalist academic logic vs. an academic performer logic – important differences

There are many ways to describe what a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic entail, but below, characteristics and differences between the logics which are deemed valuable for this study are pointed out. Later, the labels developed below are used to show the varied displays of logics by individual researchers.

First, there is being collegial (traditionalist academic logic) vs. non-collegial (academic performer logic). Displaying a traditionalist academic logic refers to valorizing academic critique and cooperation (e.g. Horta and Santos, 2020; Conrath-Hargreaves and Wüstemann, 2019) and peer recognition (e.g. Guarini et al., 2020). Instead, displaying an academic performer logic entails not really caring to involve such a “collective effort to produce knowledge in scholarly communities” (Butler and Spoelstra, 2012) but rather a focus on seeking to perform in the eyes of extant PMSs.

Second, there is being content-focused (traditionalist academic logic) vs. pace- or reward-focused (academic performer logic). Displaying a traditionalist academic logic refers to being intrinsically motivated by doing research and the research content per se (e.g. Kallio and Kallio, 2014). Displaying an academic performer logic rather refers to being driven by engagement with one’s working pace and/or extrinsic rewards such as funding opportunities and career progression (e.g. Clarke and Knights, 2015; Alvesson et al., 2017). This relatedly means valorizing oneself and others in relation to abilities to perform outputs within particular time frames, and in the eyes of extant PMSs (Gendron, 2015; Englund and Gerdin, 2020). As also stated by Gendron (2015) and Englund and Gerdin (2020), this reversely means that coming out poorly in these respects becomes relatable to fears of being “abnormal” and insufficiently productive.

Third and relatedly, there is being non-content-adaptable (traditionalist academic logic) or content-adaptable (academic performer logic). A traditionalist academic logic valorizes and protects the idea of researchers’ rights to freely choose what research (questions) to pursue and produce (e.g. Nkomo, 2009). As shown by the same sources, an academic performer logic rather allows for the idea of having one’s research altered in these respects in light of how assessments of research now transition toward funders and important others from broader society such as governments and businesses (e.g. Vakkuri and Johanson, 2020; Beime et al., 2021).

Finally, these logics differ with regard to non-employer loyalty (traditionalist academic logic) vs. employer loyalty (academic performer logic). This refers to how displaying a traditionalist academic logic entails focusing on the idea that researchers should be allowed to set their own research agendas, and that these should emerge in relation to academic disciplines rather than employing organizations (Billot, 2010; Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015). Instead, displaying an academic performer logic entails being loyal toward one’s employer in attempts to “produce value for money” or by doing “a job as any other” (Kallio et al., 2021).

In sum and for this paper, displaying a traditionalist academic logic thus means displaying collegiality, content-focus, non-content adaptability or non-employer loyalty. Instead, displaying an academic performer logic means displaying non-collegiality, pace- or reward focus, content adaptability or employer loyalty.

2.1.2 Extant insight into displays of either logic by researchers

As interested not only in academic institutional logics per se but also when and why they become displayed, this section digs deeper into six explanations from existing research.

First is the degree to which outcomes of PMSs are emphasized by important others such as managers. In such a vein, e.g. Alvesson and Spicer (2016) point to the increasing influence of “academic managerialism”; that university deans (who are also increasing in number) now often use measures of research output (e.g. counting publications) to justify decisions about activities in the faculties they are in charge of. Output is thus increasingly paid attention to and cherished but also depended on, and the result is increased adherence to the ideals conveyed by the PMS (i.e. academic performer logic). This then becomes true not only for the deans but also for the researchers they are increasingly able to manage (e.g. Horta and Santos, 2020; Ter Bogt and Scapens, 2012).

Another explanation is the degree to which extant PMSs emphasize individual performances. In such a vein, Butler and Spoelstra (2012) argue that strong emphasis on individual performance by an extant PMS (with funding and career progression as rewards) makes researchers more prone to gamesmanship. This is assumed to ultimately shape how researchers see and talk about themselves in ways that are in line with what the PMS finds legitimate, i.e. an academic performer logic (e.g. Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015).

Then there is (attention to) one’s relative performance. Some (e.g. Alvesson et al., 2017; Ylijoki and Ursin, 2013) refer to high performers to point out who displays an academic performer logic. Yet, others show that individuals deeming themselves to be part of a department of lacking performance may also display such a logic to “catch up” in the eyes of their PMS (Guarini et al., 2020).

Also, there is the academic university, discipline and/or administrative position of the controlled. That is, some point to the importance of affiliation to a particular university, discipline or academic group whose familiarity (Pache and Santos, 2013) with performance measurement (e.g. Chatterjee et al., 2020; Gebreiter, 2021) takes on importance for identifying those who conform (i.e. display an academic performer logic) and those who resist (i.e. display a traditionalist academic logic). As an example, Guarini et al. (2020; see also Reale and Seeber, 2011) found that when researchers associate themselves with a “social sciences department”, they are less likely to accord with what is legitimate in the eyes of PMSs while the opposite is true when researchers associate themselves with “hard sciences departments”. Relatedly (as mentioned), there is the importance of how researchers often take temporary or partial positions as administrators (Argento et al., 2020) and seek to reorient PMSs in accordance with demands seen to emanate from outside their university (Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015).

Additionally, there is availability of resilient conditions. In such a vein, Englund and Gerdin (2020) found that resistance to displaying an academic performer logic is enabled and strengthened by largely sharing the traditionalist academic logic within a close group or in connection with other academic groups (which makes it externally legitimate as well). This may rhyme with how Dobija et al. (2019) argue that when PMSs are regarded as lacking utility, resistance by academics to said systems is likely to ensue.

Finally, desires to rise through the ranks of or retain available academic positions have been pointed out. As an example, Guarini et al. (2020) suggest that researchers with high individual career ambitions should be more likely to display logics deemed legitimate by extant PMSs. However, Kallio et al. (2021; see also Alvesson and Spicer, 2016) show that also those deeply reluctant to display an academic performer logic may still do so to survive in a competitive research climate. Furthermore, Kallio et al. (2021) suggest that scholars who retire or leave academia in resistance to how PMSs are used allow for increased displays of an academic performer logic when new researchers find an increased sentiment toward it in the absence of these former colleagues. New researchers are also supposedly more prone to display an academic performer logic due to being relatively more exposed to tenure evaluations where PMSs tend to be awarded much importance (e.g. Acker and Webber, 2017).

2.1.3 Researchers’ logics in different situations

As mentioned, the former section points out what current literature knows about when and why a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic become displayed. However, whereas these six extant explanations are primarily focused on the researchers or how the PMS is more generally designed or used, this paper seeks to delve into another type of explanation – that of the situation. As it stands, accounting scholars who adopt an institutional logics perspective have begun to pay some attention to this. That is, to the importance of particular qualities of an instance, ones which may furthermore be captured as “ a particular course of actions and events (Carlsson-Wall et al., 2016, p. 47)”. With regard to academia, Ter Bogt and Scapens (2019) showed how new performance measures were received differently in two universities since the rationalities for how to view and use them historically differed. Relatedly, Kaufman and Covaleski (2019) showed that formal and informal academic budgeting procedures emerged differently in situations of financial stability and constraint, respectively. Finally, Gebreiter and Hidayah (2019) studied individual lecturers’ responses to pressures associated with “professional and commercial logics”. They found “… that sometimes deliberately and purposefully, sometimes ad hoc or even coincidentally, lecturers drew on a wide range of responses … (p. 727)”. Such findings thus suggest that lecturers’ responses differed depending on their current situation.

In sum, studying situations appears a fruitful means to gain deeper understanding also about variation regarding individual researchers. Before looking closer at such findings in this paper however, its' methodological particulars serve to illuminate how the findings of this paper have become possible to draw on in the first place.

3. Methods

3.1 Data collection

The data which substantiates this study consists of 21 interviews conducted over Zoom [3] in the first half of 2021, with researchers at the Department of Business Administration in one of Sweden’s universities (henceforth, University X). Studying this department was a good “fit” in relation to the focus of the study. First, since the university to which it belongs had, some 20 years ago, made a strategic turn toward an increasing focus on research. Secondly, since developments toward attributing increasing importance to PMSs have been put in place during the last ten years, including incentives directed at individual researchers.

Within the department, I sought interviewees with active experience from research – including seeking funds and getting published. After all, and as developed later, these are important foci related to academic PMSs. It also turns out that the explanations depicted in Section 2.1.2 regarding when and why either display occurs were covered with respect to the interviewees. That is, I interviewed a mix of researchers in terms of tenure (nine professors, six associate professors and six assistant professors) and in terms of holding or having recently held administrative positions (about half of them did, e.g. by being responsible for smaller subjects within the overall department and/or in positions influencing the design and use of PMSs). There was also a fairly even distribution among the interviewees regarding the smaller subjects. Finally, it turned out that the interviewees differed in the extent to which they deemed themselves successful in the eyes of extant PMSs and the overall extent to which they expressed association with resilient conditions.

The interviews were supported by an interview guide with questions which were intentionally open-ended but aimed to ultimately acquire insights about researchers’ perceived exposure to control. In other words, the guide was written with the purpose of finding out more about perceptions of control as something which is relative to how the individual researcher perceives such exposure. It also incorporated an explicit emphasis on (1) seeking funds, (2) researching and (3) seeking to publish. An open-ended interview guide was seen as important since, although interviews are to some extent co-productions by interviewer and interviewee (c.f. Alvesson, 2003), it was important to give interviewees the chance to express themselves spontaneously about themselves. As such, and as the interviews emerged, the interviewees were often asked to tell me more about their experiences (Bazeley, 2013) to an extent that the interview did not stray too far from its original intent (Kallio et al., 2016). Anyhow, since I interviewed researchers as a participant in academia myself, I sought to use my experiences and insights as an advantage. Primarily for asking insightful follow-up questions and for relating the experiences of my interviewees to extant research (see also, e.g. Gendron, 2008; Alvesson and Sköldberg, 2017). This advantage, I believe, could not have materialized without also accepting that there could be potential negative consequences involved in interviewing fellow researchers, such as potential blindness toward issues that an outside interviewer could have more easily picked up on (see also Seger et al., 2022). Finally, the format of conducting interviews proved fruitful since these issues are not necessarily ones that come up “naturally”, as stated by one interviewee, (R4)“This [interview] is very self-therapeutic, … I have never said this out loud!”

3.2 Data analysis

Data analysis and the associated interview-based narrative in the upcoming sections came about through iterations between my emergent purpose as well as an evolving and increasing understanding of the empirics and relevant extant research (see Dai et al., 2019).

First, this means that more systematic coding was conducted only after a preliminary understanding of the empirical material had been reached (Bazeley, 2013; Gerdin and Englund, 2019). For this paper, that also meant working through several steps (see also Golyagina, 2020). Step 1 consisted of initial readings of the transcribed interviews to get an overall sense of how the interviewees talked about themselves – something which began pointing toward the importance of “perceived control exposure” as distinct situations which displays of logics varied in accordance with. This led to step 2: More systematic coding of each transcript in Nvivo. In more detail, this firstly meant coding each transcript for referrals to (1) seeking funds, (2) researching and (3) seeking to publish. Then, for each of these, I coded for displays of a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic, respectively. Regarding each logic, I also coded for displays pointing to perceived (non)exposure to control as well as associated resistance, if such was to be found. Also, to get an overall sense of which dimensions of PMSs and their use that were mentioned, I also coded for such descriptions. Finally, as step 3, I looked closer at the qualities of the logics to, in iteration with extant literature, arrive at the four differences (collegial vs. non-collegial, etc., see Section 2.1.1) which represent the contents of the respective logics in this paper. In other words, I classified and labelled the qualities of the logics and their differences in a way that married what extant literature says about the logics with characteristics that were simultaneously evident in the empirical material. Notably, the patterns emerging from the analysis were approached from a position (see Englund and Gerdin, 2020) that, while it is important to respect and to some extent represent the complexity of a specific setting under study (see also Dai et al., 2019), these also possess some level of universality (see also Alvesson and Sköldberg, 2017). This position allowed me to aspire to conceptual development with meaning also beyond University X. I also drew on Bazeley (2013) to ensure trustworthiness by, e.g. comparing my data and conclusions with extant and similar research and by seeking to avoid the use of “stand-out data” as Appendix seeks to affirm.

Second, construing an interview-based narrative requires working with many quotes and/or descriptions (see Dai et al., 2019) which is why the following sections are written in this way. This style of writing was also found suitable for this paper to ground insights and abstractions about institutional logics (see Reay and Jones, 2016) as well as other relevant concepts (Bazeley, 2013). Meanwhile, the sections have also been construed in a way which is premised on seeking to avoid possible identification (e.g. Bédard and Gendron, 2004) of University X as well as of the individual interviewed researchers.

4. Findings

4.1 Increasing use of PMSs in the (Swedish) academic context

Increasing use of PMSs and associated tendencies toward marketization (e.g. Martin-Sardesai et al., 2020) are part of wider reforms (Power, 1997) with resemblance also to other KIPOs (Grossi et al., 2019). Still, there are specificities regarding how these developments have been pursued and received in academia (Ter Bogt and Scapens, 2012). (Also) Swedish universities increasingly need to perform relatively better than others by producing publications and citations on the one hand, and acquiring external grants on the other, to receive government funds (Grossi et al., 2021). In other words, Swedish researchers are increasingly set up to compete with other researchers for a chance to potentially receive funds in efforts to ultimately “increase activity on the global publication market (Hammarfelt et al., 2016, p. 294)”. While this transition toward increased emphasis on research performance takes place, a report from the Swedish Higher Education Authority (Gustavsson et al., 2021; UKÄ) showed that at a national level, Swedish universities are experiencing a (temporary) decline in the total amount of actual available external funds. They are simultaneously, and in the wake of halting job opportunities during the Corona pandemic, facing increased student enrollment and expected to expand education.

4.2 Performance measurement in University X

Aware that situationally informed reactions to PMSs and their use occur in relation to broader developments as well as the history of a particular university (Ter Bogt and Scapens, 2019), this section introduces University X and its Department of Business Administration. Alas, national developments have impacted the internal PMSs in Swedish universities too (Hammarfelt et al., 2016; Englund and Gerdin, 2020), and University X (located in one of Sweden’s larger cities) is no exception. As mentioned, University X has for some 20 years gradually increased its emphasis on and evaluation of research in ways which have accelerated in focus and intensity over the last two decades. Research is thus now not only encouraged but also increasingly monitored and incentivized toward publishing in journals of particular quality according to particular rankings. As elsewhere (Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015), these developments have been fueled not only by administrators’ perceived external demands and quests for legitimacy (Alvesson and Spicer, 2016) but also by academics from subjects more familiar with performance measurement (Gebreiter, 2021; Chatterjee et al., 2020). By now, parts of the PMS are so elaborate that, according to one interviewee, even accrediting bodies are said to express surprise.

As also mentioned, the Department of Business Administration at University X has traditionally focused on teaching. Yet, perhaps as part of a more general pattern of gradual adjustment by researchers (Alvesson and Spicer, 2016) and many retirements in recent years, resistance to PMSs seems to have died down a bit (see also Kallio et al., 2021). Initially, there was more outspoken disagreement (R3). Now, new and often younger academics have tended to become hired as “researching teachers”: (R5)“We don’t hire professors anymore, eh mostly, but assistant professors, and then they get four years to prove that they can, actually produce research”. As stated by the same interviewee, hiring teachers for their research potential has contributed to a belief that those hired under such preconditions are less reluctant toward the performance evaluations facing them before even being hired (see also Acker and Webber, 2017). Thus, overall, researchers at the Department of Business Administration could be seen as differing in sentiment toward PMSs and their use by viewing them as largely oppressive or welcome (see also Argento et al., 2020). However, and of interest for this paper, regardless of being largely against or for PMSs, the interviewed researchers as a whole and in relation to such an “overall stance” still varied in their displays of institutional logics once asked about how they approach and go about (1) seeking funds, (2) researching and (3) seeking to publish.

4.3 Displays of logics in situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”

Before delving into empirical substance to undergird the findings of this paper, the key findings – i.e. the pattern of findings that represent most of the interviewees – are first presented in the overview in Table 1.

As now seen in Table 1, this section primarily shows how a traditionalist academic logic becomes displayed relatively more when “perceived control exposure” is lower (when researching) compared to how the academic performer logic (deemed legitimate by extant PMSs) becomes displayed relatively more in a situation of higher “perceived control exposure” (when seeking funds and seeking to publish). Higher exposure is thus connected to desires by the designers of the PMS in University X to control funds (as an input that enables subsequent research process) and publications (as an output following from a research process) but rather less to control the process of conducting research per se [4]. But it also and mostly requires attention to perceptions of actual exposure for an associated academic performer logic to be displayed. As hinted already, a few interviewees did not perceive of seeking to publish as a situation of higher “perceived control exposure”. Interestingly, they did not display relatively more of an academic performer logic in relation to this part of their overall work process. They are thus not represented in the table of key findings. Now that Table 1 is introduced however, the following subsections serve to empirically substantiate it.

4.3.1 Researching – a situation of lower “perceived control exposure”

When asked about whether conducting research such as collecting data, thinking, reading and writing is measured or followed up in any way, all interviewed researchers spontaneously reacted with statements such as (R3)“No, you can work in any constellations you want, that is with anyone you want or conduct it with any methods and anywhere nobody … There shall be no control regarding for example research questions or the like …”. Upon further contemplation however, some mentioned that indirectly there is influence from research seminars and skills one acquired when becoming a PhD but also that (R5) “The hard measurements that actually matter, Is there a publication afterwards that someone is willing to publish?”

Also, some interviewees added that to receive funding granted by employment which for assistant professors amounts to 10%, for associate professors to 20% and for professors to 30% (or more, which is rare), one is obliged to fill in a form which states that they have done something with that money to be eligible again the coming year. But, there are no minimum requirements nor any quantitative targets or benefits from doing more rather than less nor any particular activity rather than another.

In referral to this situation of lower exposure to PMSs, and as further substantiated later in this section and in Appendix, all interviewees drew heavily on a traditionalist academic logic. In fact, only a few interviewees spoke, and then briefly, about this situation in terms which were not solely in line with a traditionalist academic logic.

4.3.2 Seeking funds and seeking to publish – situations of higher “perceived control exposure”

When referring to seeking funds or seeking to publish however, the interviewees turned from tales of largely a lack of control to various descriptions of extant PMSs and their use.

Almost all spoke of research granted by employment. On seeking to publish, claims tended to be forwarded similarly to the researching situation – that reporting what has come out of one’s research process is a means of being granted more funds next year. But mostly, it was the situation of seeking funds which was referred to, especially availability of funds granted by employment in relation to “the 50/50 goal”: (R3)“50% teaching and 50% research that is the base … And this 50% research that is expected to be funded by external money”. Thus, almost no interviewee would achieve this goal without applying to external funders. For many, this also meant that time allotted to them as research granted by employment did not go to conducting research per se but rather to seeking funds. Also, as explained by an interviewee, (R6)“… to teach at 80%, with current parameters for teaching, that’s … something which means a work load that makes the time to apply for funds and so on highly limited”. That is, once entering a period of little funding, it can be difficult to get back to researching at all and one’s applications must compete with those of competitors who have had more time to focus on research. Then, that clearly affects publishing: (R7)“… if you then teach for a long time and don’t get funded. Then, you are not likely to publish either”.

The need for researchers to fund their own research and the importance of publishing is part of larger developments in Sweden and beyond. This is brought up by more than two-thirds of interviewees. Relatedly, about half also bring up an impact on PMSs in University X by the rising importance of accreditations: (R9) “… we’re ranked … as individuals and then we’re ranked as a department and as … eh, faculty and university … it’s a counting exercise”. The above may help make sense of how, by now, the university hosts application seminars where those successful at receiving funding may seek to inspire and help others. Also, how there seems to be a culture at University X where researchers notice who does (not) have funding, at least within their smaller section. Systematic attention is however reserved for publications of larger sums from “better funders” (harder to get and with better terms for the university).

Extant PMSs also come with implications for individual researchers’ prospects for increased salaries and promotions. All interviewees but one talked about points received (or not) in the yearly salary revision. Although sentiments differed as to whether the difference between “good” and “bad” performers is really that great, it was clear that it is possible to gain a lasting increase in salary up to a few percent depending on one’s performance. A sum which becomes added to the sum which is to be added to next year and so on. It is a mathematical formula where four categories can each provide a maximum of three points. In relation to research, which is one category, publications ranked at three and upward, according to the Academic Journal Guide (AJG), give more points. Regarding funding, which is another category, being the main applicant and receiving grants from the “better funders” referred to previously will also give extra points. Finally, there is the importance for promotions. University X has decided that there are minimum requirements in terms of how many publications of certain rank one should achieve to be eligible for applying to be assessed for a promotion. Also, for becoming a professor, one needs to show that one has the capacity to take the helm in receiving funds.

As shown, there are several incentives built into extant PMSs when it comes to applying for funds. Although there are displays of outright resistance on behalf of some researchers (such as how several see the relative increase in salary in a year as too low to make a difference for one’s way of acting/since the exposure experienced in that particular respect is rather low after all), as further substantiated below, all interviewees still gave voice to some perceived exposure to control and associated displays of an academic performer logic.

As also shown, there are several incentives built into extant PMSs when it comes to seeking to publish too. To be substantiated in this section but as also shown in Appendix, while there is resistance here as well (often referring to limits as to how far one is prepared to go to perform in the eyes of extant PMSs), the academic performer logic is prevalent. However, there were some (not all) more tenured interviewees who no longer felt particularly exposed. That is, did not consider this situation to be one of higher “perceived control exposure”, since the impact from the salary revision and the visibility that comes with performing is all that remains to control them: (R13) “Earlier in my career I published much more, it’s often so that if one wants to become professor or be promoted that’s an extra incentive so to speak and it disappears a little once the promotion is achieved”. Thence, with lessened “perceived control exposure” has come lessened displays of an academic performer logic.

4.4 Varied displays by individual researchers

Related to the situations, individual researchers varied in their displays of a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic. Below, a couple of interviewees will be allowed room in running text to illustrate these findings. However, Appendix further substantiates that its key findings come from the empirical material and not just tiny slices.

Starting with interviewee R1. With regard to seeking funds, R1 talks about the salary revision, although it clearly does not invoke enough of a perceived sense of exposure to make much difference: “In our salary talks we have certain points we can score. … I don’t care so much. At least not that much, some pace- or reward focus creeps in: “… there’s also a connection to incentive systems … The only difference I see is if I seek [funding] as main applicant or co-applicant. … So there’s always a discussion …”. That is, the possibility for points still seems to make R1 a bit more prone to display an academic performer logic and engage in discussions about becoming main applicant. Then, R1 also talks about “better funders”; “… these provide the most overhead. … there is a … desire [from University X], to seek the big money”. However, this is seemingly not enough to make R1 focused on doing so since “… it is usually easier to seek lesser funds for smaller projects”. This however points to where R1 really seems most exposed; in relation to taking time away from teaching to pursue research. R1 relatedly displays an academic performer logic emphasizing a pace- or reward focus and needing to be employer-loyal: “I have to apply for funds, if I don’t want 100% teaching. … if the rules are that I have to apply for funds for it, then that is simply what I’ll do. … I could complain, but why would I?” Because “… of course there are demands on me. It’s the same as any other job”. The same goes for the ability to acquire more funding in relation to promotions: “… if one makes [promotion] that means a little extra [research granted by employment] … those leaps are a bit more exciting”. In sum, for R1, the situation of seeking funds is clearly a situation of higher “perceived control exposure”, and it also becomes evident that perceptions of control exposure are associated with it.

Thence, we turn to researching – as we shall see, a situation of lower “perceived control exposure” for R1. That is, when asked whether the process of conducting research is measured or followed up, the answer is “… the school is completely uninterested … They just want us to publish!” Relatedly, in this situation, displays representative of a traditionalist academic logic take over completely. Especially with regard to being content-focused: “… part of the pay is that I have the ability to have a free mind …. And “… it’s probably personal … eh, curiosity. That drives me”.

Yet, on seeking to publish, R1 returns to a situation of higher “perceived control exposure”. Not so much in relation to the salary revision, but rather with regard to the lure of tenure. That is, displays of pace- or reward focus return: … it [becoming associate professor as fast as possible] is what I have promised, to do [when hired] … that’s what I want to be … within a reasonable time frame. And If I were to need a three [a publication ranked as three by AJG] then I need to fix a three. But, as with other interviewees, not at any cost, e.g. the content focus does not vanish: “… it would be good to just push out a one [an article published in a journal ranked as one according to AJG] so I can get my [promotion] but I can’t … I don’t even try!” Still, for R1, displaying a traditionalist academic logic relatively more in a situation of lower exposure, compared to displaying the academic performer logic relatively more in situations of higher “perceived control exposure” is arguably clear.

While R1 has promotions in sight, we also turn to a more tenured interviewee. We turn to R12. When it comes to seeking funds, R12 mentions that “… can you acquire funds, … Then you get points for that. … It’s the same with our 30% [research granted by employment] for professors … if you don’t apply for funds then maybe you won’t get all of the 30% …”. Related to such “perceived control exposure”, R12 describes the process of seeking funds in terms which are clearly pace- or reward-focused:… if you get a no from there [one funder] then just take the next one and work from there … We need to work for it. The name of the game. As well as slightly content-adaptable, “… [research] ideas can change a little to adjust to a specific program”.

Thence, turning again to the researching situation – as we shall see, a situation of lower “perceived control exposure” also for R12. When this interviewee is asked whether the process of conducting research is measured or followed up, the answer is (emphasis added): “you don’t really get [an emphasis on] what has been done at work …. However, R12 does mention that “we have these informal seminars … perhaps there is a form of valuation too … but there are no points [in the eyes of extant PMSs associated with them]”. And in fact, just after saying how these seminars are not relatable to points, R12 moves on to talking about the importance of collegiality: “this is common work, research is common, it’s not about sitting by yourself, you’re always dependent on other people’s knowledge and assessments”. R12 also talks about content-focus: “I’d say it’s the [personal] learning that drives me”.

In fact, no academic performer logic is to be found without moving back to the situation of seeking to publish – a situation of higher “perceived control exposure” for R12. Here, pressures to publish are described, e.g. in the following pace- or reward-focused terms “… the system leads to our work being ranked and judged accordingly and then we shall accept that”. R12 is aware of this contradiction: “… this is a bit in opposition to what I said … that I am more interested in learning and such but … one has to follow this [the extant PMS] Then we have lists, rankings for articles. We follow … we aim for three or higher …”. Perhaps this awareness is part of now R12 does not accept and follow no matter what either (i.e. similarly to R1). For example, R12 talks about refraining from putting their name on a paper when feeling that there was not enough of a contribution to add (thus resisting an urge to be pace- or reward-focused) and rather focusing on collegiality: “… it might have been easier for me to publish an already written paper but … I gave them some suggestions … they did not need me to take their credit, they worked hard already …”. Still, also for R12, displaying a traditionalist academic logic relatively more in a situation of lower “perceived control exposure” compared to displaying an academic performer logic relatively more in situations of higher “perceived control exposure” is arguably clear.

5. Discussion and implications

As empirically substantiated above, this paper finds that the extent to which studied researchers displayed a traditionalist academic- and an academic performer logic varied in situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”. In fact, the traditionalist academic logic was considerably more displayed in situations of lower “perceived control exposure”, while the academic performer logic was displayed relatively more in comparison in situations of higher “perceived control exposure”. Arguably, these key findings leave room for a discussion of four issues related to researchers and their displays of institutional logics. Namely, (1) situations, (2) “perceived control exposure”, (3) the relative swing between researchers’ logics and (4) wider implications.

The first issue arguably relates to the notion of the situation as such. As suggested, few have focused on the importance of the situation per se for understanding how institutional logics are displayed (see also Ter Bogt and Scapens, 2019). Thus, while some such studies have been conducted, even in academia (again, see Kaufman and Covaleski, 2019; Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019), this is arguably the first to do so to really look closely at individual hybrid professional researchers. To bring forth how logics are displayed by researchers depending on their immediate situation is thus a new type of explanation in the literature on displays of researchers’ logics. After all, it differs from foci on the researchers themselves (if they are tenured or not, career-focused or not, etc. again, see, e.g. Guarini et al., 2020; Acker and Webber, 2017; Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015) or general features of PMSs or their use per se (if they measure individuals or not, etc. again, see, e.g. Argento et al., 2020; Alvesson and Spicer, 2016). Yet, that researchers differ per se does not serve in this paper to suggest differences in innate preferences for or against PMSs and their use (as in, e.g. Chatelain-Ponroy et al., 2018; Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019) but rather that reactions to PMSs and associated displays of logics also depend on the situation.

A second, and related, issue is that of perceived control exposure”. This paper introduces “perceived control exposure” as a situational quality of great importance for understanding academic researchers’ displays of institutional logics. Thus, while others have shown that the notion of “situations” can be important for understanding academic practices, these have tended to focus either on “situations in general” (Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019) or other situational qualities such as funding situations (Kaufman and Covaleski, 2019). My findings suggest that situational perceptions of exposure to control in terms of (not) being exposed to what the PMS wants to/can “see” constitutes another quality of situation that is thus far rather unexplored.

Then, and still within the issue of “perceived control exposure”, my findings also contradict or nuance extant explanations of when and why researchers display a traditionalist- or an academic performer logic. First, in continuation of how some explanations focus on the researcher. Then, finding that “perceived control exposure” matters shows that differences in displays of logics can boil down to how exposed researchers are in situations of higher “perceived control exposure”, while they remain similar in situations of similarly lower “perceived control exposure”. That is, extant arguments, i.e. that being young in the system or not “successful” means losing access to researching which has to be earned (back) through funding and publishing – which also means being more exposed to PMSs and associated pressures to display an academic performer logic (e.g. Acker and Webber, 2017) – are supported. But, this study shows that such findings need to be understood as occurring only or mostly in situations of higher “perceived control exposure”. After all, less tenured researchers in this study do not seem more prone to display an academic performer logic compared to their more tenured or “successful” counterparts in situations of lower “perceived control exposure”. Second, in continuation of explanations geared primarily toward the PMS or its use. Then, my study shows that the academic performer logic which is deemed legitimate by the extant PMS becomes nestled with a more traditional or orthogonal logic (i.e. traditionalist academic logic) in relation to what the system wants to/can (not) “see”! Thence, if we are to understand how PMSs play a role in how researchers display institutional logics, we should look to PM systems and how they mostly matter in relation to what they seek to and are perceived to control – i.e. situations of higher “perceived control exposure”. In other words, that the PMS left room for resistance and doubt in University X by both “seeing” and “not seeing” certain situations as it focused differently on different parts of the overall work process of individual researchers.

As a final point related to “perceived control exposure”, my findings revealed that it is perceptions of control exposure that really matter. By all means, this paper suggests that the parts of an individual researchers’ work process that the system is highly geared to focus on (seeking funds and seeking to publish) stood out as situations of higher “perceived control exposure” for most interviewees. But, it was not so easy as to say that it was the generally high focus of the system that mattered for displays of an academic performer logic. After all, some more tenured researchers did not find seeking to publish to be a situation of higher “perceived control exposure” for them. Then, these did not display more of an academic performer logic in association with that part of their work process. On a related note, however, some tenured researchers mentioned that they sometimes shield other researchers from exposure. Interestingly, and supporting the importance of perceptions of control, when doing so and thus perceiving to face control exposure of their colleagues – a form of indirect perceived control exposure – they became more prone to display an academic performer logic. In such a vein, one displayed this pace- or reward focus: (R16)“Regarding [a previous] publication … I had younger people who need employment security so then I take a ‘low life 3’ [a journal ranked as 3 according to AJG but perceived as easier to get published in] and then I contact the editor which I know and who tells me that of course there can be no influence on reviewers but we will be fast tracked. And then I decided on that journal”. This contradicts Chatelain-Ponroy et al. (2018, p. 1391) that “high-status academics are relatively indifferent to new performance measures, since such measures no longer impact them”. Actually, as the quote shows, these more tenured academics are at the outset collegial and only in the process come to display an academic performer logic. Thus, displays of an academic performer logic in association with attempts to career (Clarke and Knights, 2015; Grossi et al., 2020) or survive (Kallio et al., 2021) in a competitive research climate can stretch beyond the individual and “their” higher “perceived control exposure”, but result in a displayed academic performer logic, nonetheless.

All in all, the former arguments lead to the next issue of this discussion section; the relative swing between individual researchers’ displays of logics. Interestingly, since the same overall PMS is perceived to enable both situations of lower and higher “perceived control exposure” in the same work process of individual researchers, this is an important que as to how and why academic PMSs can be seen to result in overall ambivalence (van Helden and Argento, 2020; Seger et al., 2022), “reluctant conformance” (Alvesson and Spicer, 2016) or – for short – in individual hybridity (Kallio et al., 2021). But, it also shows in more detail when there tends to be a relative swing between the two logics, i.e. when the logics, relative to each other and to the situation at hand, are more or less displayed. Thence, what may look like “aggregate hybridity” of an individual researcher can in fact become more distinct once situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure” is brought forth. That academic PMSs seem to constantly enable existence of situations of both lower and higher “perceived control exposure” within individual researchers’ overall work process thus helping us understand when and why they comparatively more so or less so display either logic. Such enabling then is due to how the academic PMS does (not) see different parts of the same work process for individual researchers – parts which are perceived as situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”.

As a fourth and final issue, this paper arguably enables wider implications. As such, this paper adds to those who seek to go beyond researchers displays of logics to understand and theorize how academic professionals react and behave (Mountford and Cai, 2022) in relation to PMSs (Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019; Spanò et al., 2022). Furthermore, it arguably matters for those who want to understand hybrid professionals (Blomgren and Waks, 2015) in KIPOs (Grossi et al., 2019) as well. Finally, it matters for those who primarily seek to say something about how PMSs can or should be designed or used in relation to how institutional logics will be displayed (e.g. Grossi et al., 2019; Chenhall et al., 2013; Gerdin, 2020).

After all, this paper confirms extant broader findings that hybrid professionals are generally to be regarded as “soft” in the sense that they seek to find ways to respond to pressures to display conflicting logics in ways that are “made to work” with both pressures in mind (Blomgren and Waks, 2015). It also confirms extant research suggesting that controlled conform to PMSs by drawing on a range of different responses which together can represent a range between resistance and conformance (Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019). This is not achieved by seeking to classify responses per se however, but by complementing such studies through revealing when the logics they represent are more or less prevalent. By all means, the (appended) findings from this paper could be seen as showing various more detailed “responses” to academic PMSs in line with related academic research about individual lecturers (Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019) [5]. However, this paper rather shows when and why responses vary/how hybrid professionals become “soft” by showing that such variation can still or also be understood as occurring in a pattern connected to situations of lower or higher perceived control exposure.

As another point of discussion with regard to the fourth issue of wider implications, this study shows that understanding displays of logics by hybrid professionals can be seen as a matter of “perceived control exposure” rather than the parts of their work process per se. Particularly, it appears that situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure” are highly important for understanding how hybrid professionals can cope with the complexity that is represented through the traditional ideals and wants of their profession and the pressures to perform in the eyes of PMSs that they increasingly experience.

Relatedly, this means that designers of PMSs meant to control hybrid professionals should probably consider situations of “perceived control exposure”. In more detail, it appears to be at least equally important to consider how a system may result in “perceived control exposure” as it is to establish which professional is more or less generally inclined to display a certain logic. Also, on the other hand, it seems perhaps more important than focusing on how to control different parts of the overall work processes per se. After all, experiences of control seem to vary in accordance with the perceived control exposure these represent rather than only or always varying according to new parts of the work process. Especially, designers of PMSs could be mindful of the potential inability PMSs to “see” all situations within the overall work processes of the individuals it seeks to control. And, that such a “partial inability” enables reflection about, and variation in displays of, institutional logics that are likely to be either more traditionally professional or more performer-oriented. This means that broader heeds to delve into how PMSs can or should be designed also beyond academia would probably do well to incorporate explicit attention to situations of “perceived control exposure” (Grossi et al., 2017, 2019, 2020; Dobija et al., 2019; Modell, 2021; Polzer, 2022). After all, this paper shows in an academic setting that PMS design influences the potential to manage multiplicity of institutional logics by showing that researchers are reflexive (Ter Bogt and Scapens, 2019) and do not react to control systems by mere or total compliance (see also Aleksandrov, 2020) but that they still tend to become more so “embroiled in their own subjugation within management control systems (Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015, p. 1024)” in situations where “perceived control exposure” is higher. Thus, regardless of whether compromise between extant logics is sought or not in the design of a PMS (Chenhall et al., 2013) or broader control system (Gerdin, 2020), considering whether or not a system targets all relevant situations where multiple institutional logics are displayed by those the system seeks to control will likely influence whether and how these individuals display institutional logics.

6. Concluding remarks

This paper introduces situations of lower and higher “perceived control exposure” as important for understanding displays of logics by hybrid professional researchers. The overall conclusion is that when hybrid professional researchers find themselves in situations of lower “perceived control exposure”, they will display more of a traditionalist academic logic. In contrast, when they find themselves in situations of higher “perceived control exposure”, an academic performer logic becomes displayed comparatively more. As discussed above, this overall conclusion stresses the importance of situations in general, and the type of control that characterizes such situations in particular. Moreover, it points to how taking an interest in situations of varying “perceived control exposure” not only adds to our understanding of a relative swing between researchers displays of logics, and how they may vary in their reactions to PMSs. Rather, it also adds to our understanding of other related areas, such as KIPOs and PMS design.

6.1 Limitations and heeds for future research

This paper was informed by a single case in a Swedish setting, which could be seen as a limitation. However, a comparison with other countries suggests that the importance attributed to PMSs, and pressures to perform in accordance with such systems, are equally high (if not higher) in other contexts (e.g. Agyemang and Broadbent, 2015; Guarini et al., 2020; Dobija et al., 2019 on other countries; Grossi et al., 2019 on other KIPOs). Still, this study only begins to unpack displays of logics in situations characterized by different “perceived control exposure”. Thus, more research is needed.

One suggestion is to delve into “perceived control exposure” of research vs. teaching. Despite being about research, many interviewees in the current study pointed to how freedom to pursue research and teaching (Gendron, 2008) has become a freedom from teaching to pursue more research (c.f. Ter Bogt and Scapens, 2012). Moreover, they stressed that “perceived control exposure” regarding teaching (counting hours, handling larger classes and shrinking budgets) is in fact often higher than that of research. Based on this, (how) does “perceived control exposure” relate to wanting to pursue less teaching? Is it driving academics away from wanting to teach and/or preventing them from pursuing research instead?

Another suggestion is to study “perceived control exposure” and developments toward measuring and/or strategically pursuing different types of research impact (e.g. Schnurbus and Edvardsson, 2020). As PMSs in University X are designed now, refusing to only go for top journals and writing for a wider public appears to be a form of resistance. So, what happens in universities where impact is increasingly strategically pursued by university management?

PMSs and situations of lower or higher “perceived control exposure”

Part of researchers’ work processEmphasis of extant control systemWhat is being controlled by the PMSPerceived exposure to controlDisplays of logicsSituation
Seeking fundsHighInputHigherRelatively more academic performer logic/less traditionalist academic logicA situation of higher “perceived control exposure”
ResearchingLowProcessLowerRelatively less academic performer logic/almost only traditionalist academic logicA situation of lower “perceived control exposure”
Seeking to publishHighOutputHigherRelatively more academic performer logic/less traditionalist academic logicA situation of higher “perceived control exposure”

Appended qoutes from additional interviewees

Researchers (interviewees)Seeking fundsResearchingSeeking to publish
R4An example of “perceived control exposure”: “If I am to stay here [at University X] I have to apply for funds … if you do not get funds, well, then you will have to apply somewhere else”
An example of associated academic performer logic (content-adaptable): “Funders are becoming increasingly specific with regards to what they want, and then I have to adjust”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (non-content-adaptable): “So there is a form of control which is potentially wrong … Funders and politicians may not always know what is the best … research and where to use it. So, [I try to maintain] a balance”
An example of “perceived non-exposure”: “Not that I know of. More than eh, I mean if … the follow ups are kind of indirectly that – did you spit anything out [i.e. publish] afterwards?”
An example of associated traditionalist academic logic (content-focused): “to interview people or, talk about things that, at least for me, what I have chosen, I am very interested in … I mean personally too”
But there was also one manifestation of an academic performer logic (pace- or reward focus): “To report certain things one has said that one shall do. Eh, that is often a good motivator to get, to collect data and to do what you have to do”
An example of “perceived control exposure”: “One needs more merits [such as publications] in order to make [a particular promotion]”
An example of associated academic performer logic (pace- or reward focus): “The closer I get [to promotion] the more pragmatic I get” “… now I need a, to score another point [i.e. publication], and then that is simply what I will do”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (content-focus): “No, there are no incentives but I think it is fun. We have two [pieces that are not incentivized] coming … so sometimes … someone in my network says ‘Let us do it?’ And then I tag along. Because I feel that it is an important issue”
R8An example of “perceived control exposure”: “… I need to produce, I need to be good, I need to receive [funding], I mean all that drives me”
An example of associated academic performer logic (content-adaptable): “ … for example if I were not to get it [i.e. funding] … I think being prepared to tamper with one’s direct research … ideas, then I believe that … there is likely funding”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (content-focus): “ … then I also believe that it is important to really stick with one’s research question and not get on board with the new ideas all the time. Because that is easy to do”
An example of “perceived non-exposure
to have freedom means not specifying what to do … or what areas and so on … it’s about showing that there is a process going with the times allotted [to pursue research granted by employment]”
An example of associated traditionalist academic logic (content-focus): “Do I feel like a researcher? Yes I do! I am passionate about this! To constantly question and try to understand and explain things”
Also this interviewee did manifest one example of an academic performer logic (employer-loyal): “A sense of duty, I have to because they pay me. Yes, maybe that too in certain seconds”
An example of “perceived control exposure”: “… the yearly salary revision. Oh my God no article published this year! Oh well! Then I know there goes … maybe [a certain amount] a month for all eternity”
An example of associated academic performer logic (pace- or reward focus): “There is salary, extra salary if one can show that one publishes. … so of course sometimes it is “No I will just send it now. So it gets done. And then on to the next”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (content-focus): “I am rather torn when seeing that … sometimes a lot of articles are premiered that should not really have been published [for lack of quality]”
R10An example of “perceived control exposure”: “The primary follow up … is that we fill our hours … so I’d say this is the big control”
An example of associated academic performer logic (pace- or reward focus): “At the end of the day it is about getting the research published and also that funders are pleased with it all”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic: N/A
An example of “perceived non-exposure: “No it is nothing. The University does not really meddle with the projects”
An example of associated traditionalist academic logic (non-content-adaptable): “… if [the manager] came and interfered with what methods I use in my research, I would not accept it”
An example of academic performer logic: N/A
An example of “perceived control exposure”: “For example salary revision and meriting … there are incentives that I should publish in a certain way”
An example of associated academic performer logic (pace- or reward focus): “… if I have a paper to put out there then naturally I look at how to gain maximum utility from it all”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (content-focus): “I am not one to only choose projects after it [meriting] … or that I carelessly submit just to get it off my hands”
R17An example of “perceived control exposure”: “If I want to do research I must receive funding myself [to exceed research granted by employment]”
An example of associated academic performer logic (pace- or reward focus/non-collegial): “the competition means I basically cannot add a colleague who does not have good publications to strengthen the application …”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (non-content-adaptable): “… where all the ideas [for applications] come from, then it’s that curiosity and interest …”
An example of “perceived non-exposure”: “… I have never been asked from any [manager] or anyone else about having to answer for [how I conduct research]”
An example of associated traditionalist academic logic (content-focus and collegial): “It is probably this, yes in part this curiosity that I keep returning to and that I actually have many good colleagues who I like to work with and who think alike”
An example of academic performer logic: N/A
An example of “perceived control exposure”: “It is those publications that are missing … [to become promoted]”
An example of associated academic performer logic: “For [promotion] I need at least threes. And it takes a lot of work to get there. And then some twos are still alright and … might become threes soon … and how does one sniff them out well that requires talking to colleagues … Yes well take that because it is somewhat equal to another journal but much faster to respond …
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (collegial): “I guess that is also in my nature that I think it is more fun to work with others … than to only back myself”
R21An example of “perceived control exposure”: “I would not say that is has had much influence on me, I mean if it gives me more salary, but rather it is about getting funds to be able to do research”
An example of associated academic performer logic (content-adaptable): “What is it that this funder, what is it that is important to emphasize here … it is about a bit of an adjustment to that”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (content-focus): “… some things I would not even apply for … [since] it would not get me interested”
An example of “perceived non-exposure”: “On the whole it is receiving funds … and then it is; what is published? In between it is not so much … it is these other things that are visible”
An example of associated traditionalist academic logic: “It [i.e. researching] begins with a form of research area, a research interest, a form of study and something that I do”
An example of academic performer logic: N/A
An example of “perceived control exposure”: “I think it was for a [former promotion] … I did not think before that about … how does this count … and I have kept doing that ever since … So it is not the difference between publishing or not, but more about where do I aim, what do I choose”
An example of associated academic performer logic (non-collegial): “In relation to this thing about the importance of publishing versus only working close to other actors … I have often put up boundaries and simply said that No, now I will not take part because I need to do this more”
An example of associated resistance and traditionalist academic logic (content-focus): “I still write in [outlets that are not incentivized] So I am not really that, I am not overly strategic about it”

Notes

1.

In this study, institutional logics refer to guiding principles for action in terms of “how to interpret organizational reality, what constitutes appropriate behaviour, and how to succeed (Thornton, 2004, p. 70)”.

2.

In this study, “display” primarily refers to how researchers speak about their reactions/behaviors rather than their emotional status.

3.

Zoom is a computer program for video conference calls. Importantly for interviews, it is possible to record audio to collect memorandums.

4.

Funding does not always precede research. But, in a general sense, being funded is an input that enables research and potential output in the shape of publications.

5.

This study reveals several responses such as deliberate strategizing (R10, Appendix) as well as exhaustion (R17, Appendix) or coincidence (R4, Appendix about resisting when an opportunity presented itself).

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Acknowledgements

The author gratefully acknowledge the useful comments from Hans Englund, Jonas Gerdin and Maira Babri as well as those from participants at “Contemporary strands of institutional theory and their application to management and accounting” held at Nord University, Norway, during the second half of 2021. The author also grateful for the constructive feedback from reviewers and for financial support provided by Örebro University.

Corresponding author

Malin Härström can be contacted at: malin.harstrom@oru.se

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