Organizational Transformation and Scientific Change: The Impact of Institutional Restructuring on Universities and Intellectual Innovation: Volume 42

Subject:

Table of contents

(19 chapters)
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Advisory Board

Pages xi-xii
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Abstract

Recent reforms to higher education systems in many OECD countries have focused on making universities more effective organisations in competing for resources and reputations. This has often involved increasing their internal cohesion and external autonomy from the state to make them more similar to private companies. However, pre-reform universities differed so greatly in their governance and capabilities that the impact of institutional changes has varied considerably between three ideal types: Hollow, State-chartered, and Autarkic. Furthermore, the combination of: (a) the inherent uncertainty of scientific research undertaken for publication, (b) limited managerial control over work processes and reputations, and (c) the contradictory effects of some funding and governance changes has greatly restricted the ability of universities to function as authoritatively integrated organisations capable of developing distinctive competitive competences.

Abstract

This article questions how institutional change influences actors’ behavior within organizations affected by the evolution of their institutional environment. This issue is addressed by looking at how university leaders are empowered by the external reviews led by evaluation agencies and research councils and how they use these reviews as managerial tools and to make decisions. It is argued that this process is complementary to the reforms in university governance and structures and amplifies their effects because it is more legitimate, favors organizational coupling and the appropriation of new norms. It draws on a study led in three French universities in 2011.

Abstract

University governance is constantly challenged by changing expectations and contexts. New, prestigious and well-endowed funding schemes are one possible source of pressure for change of university governance. This article analyses the impact of one such scheme, the grants of the European Research Council (ERC), on the governance of European universities. After outlining a model of how this impact on universities can be expected to occur, we present the results of an exploratory study at a very early stage of the ERC’s existence (2010–2011). The empirical analysis is based on an investigation of 11 universities in eight countries, which shows that different kinds of universities are affected in varied and often unexpected ways, with particular differences arising at different levels within the universities.

Abstract

This article investigates the links between universities’ opportunities to shape their research profiles, the changing state interest concerning these profiles, and the impact of profile building on research at university and field levels. While the authority of the Dutch state over research profiles of Dutch universities has increased, university management has considerable operational authority over the inclusion of new research fields and removal of existing research fields. Since all universities have begun to follow the same external signals prescribing applied research, research that has easy access to external funding, and research in fields prioritised by the state, a ‘quasi-market failure’ may emerge, as is demonstrated for evolutionary developmental biology and Bose-Einstein condensation.

Abstract

While the formal structures of universities may predominantly reflect ceremonial rather than functional purposes, attempts at changing them are usually a fertile ground for academic conflicts. Taking this apparent contradiction as a starting point, the aim of this article is to explore the intriguing role of formal structures in academic settings. Drawing on a case study of a merger and organizational restructuring process in an academic research centre, it shows how symbolic responses to institutional pressures may have actual consequences on research practices, beyond myth and ceremony.

Abstract

This article analyses in what way Swiss academic institutions have had a favourable or unfavourable influence on changing research practices by following developments in four scientific areas – Bose-Einstein Condensates, Evolutionary Developmental Biology, Large-Scale Assessments in education research and Computerised Corpus Linguistics. Based on empirical evidence, we argue that overall a number of institutional conditions have had a positive influence on the decisions of scientists to dare a switch to a new scientific field. One finds, however, also differences in the working of these institutional conditions leading to quicker or slower developments of the four selected scientific areas.

Abstract

Bose-Einstein condensation is a scientific innovation in experimental physics whose realisation required considerable time and resources. Its diffusion varied considerably between and within five countries that were comparatively studied. Differences between countries can be explained by the variation in the national communities’ absorptive capacities, while within-country differences are due to the impact of authority relations on researchers’ opportunities to build protected space for their change of research practices. Beginning experimental research on Bose-Einstein condensation required simultaneous access to the university infrastructure for research and to grants. The former is largely limited to professors, while the latter made researchers vulnerable to the majority opinion and decision practices of their national scientific community.

Abstract

Evolutionary developmental biology is a highly variable scientific innovation because researchers can adapt their involvement in the innovation to the opportunities provided by their environment. On the basis of comparative case studies in four countries, we link epistemic properties of research tasks to three types of necessary protected space, and identify the necessary and facilitating conditions for building them. We found that the variability of research tasks made contributing to evolutionary developmental biology possible under most sets of authority relations. However, even the least demanding research depends on its acceptance as legitimate innovation by the scientific community and of purely basic research by state policy and research organisations. The latter condition is shown to become precarious.

Abstract

The aim of this article is to explain commonalities and differences in the responses of four national educational science communities to the same external stimulus, namely international comparative large scale student assessments that offered vastly improved comparability of national results from the beginning of the 1990s. The comparison shows the epistemic traditions of educational research in the four countries and properties of the data produced by the international comparative studies to be the central explanatory factors for commonalities and differences of responses to the new studies.

Abstract

In this article, we analyse how variations in organisational conditions for research affect researchers’ opportunities for changing individual-level or group-level research programmes. We contrast three innovations that were developed in universities and public research institutes in Germany and the Netherlands, which enables comparisons both between organisational settings and between properties of innovations. Comparing the development of three innovations in the two types of organisations enables the identification of links between patterns of authority sharing at these organisations and the opportunities to develop innovations. On this basis, the distribution of opportunities to change research practices among researchers in the two countries can be established.

Abstract

Computer corpus linguistics (CCL) is a scientific innovation that has facilitated the creation and analysis of large corpora in a systematic way by means of computer technology since the 1950s. This article provides an account of the CCL pioneers in general but particularly of those in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. It is found that Germany and Sweden, due to more advantageous financing and weaker communities of generativists, had a faster adoption of CCL than the other two countries. A particular late adopter among the four was Switzerland, which did not take up CCL until foreign professors had been recruited.

Abstract

Recent changes in the funding and governance of academic research in many OECD countries have altered established authority relationships governing research priorities and judgements. These shifts in the influence of a variety of groups and organisations over scientific choices and careers can be expected to affect the development of different kinds of intellectual innovations by changing the level of protected space they provide researchers and the flexibility of dominant intellectual standards governing the allocation of resources and evaluation of research outcomes. Variations in these features of public science systems influence scientists’ willingness to pursue unusual and risky projects over many years and help to explain cross-national differences in the rate and mode of development of four innovations in the physical, biological and human sciences.

DOI
10.1108/S0733-558X201442
Publication date
2014-07-26
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78350-684-2
eISBN
978-1-78350-683-5
Book series ISSN
0733-558X