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Competitive Accountability in Academic Life

The Struggle for Social Impact and Public Legitimacy

Richard Watermeyer

This book considers how a culture of ‘competitive accountability’ in UK higher education produces multiple tensions, contradictions and paradoxes that are destabilizing and deleterious to the work and identities of academics as research scientists. It suggests the potential of a new discourse of scientific accountability, that frees scientists and their public communities from the absurdities and profligacy of ‘performativity’ and ‘managerial governmentality’ encountered in the REF and an impact agenda – the noose of competitive accountability – and a more honest and meaningful public contract.
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Index

Richard Watermeyer

academia, lack of support 133–4

academic community

dependent 107

heirs to 144

intellectual dimension 113–14

managers within 109

perspectives on REF 145

quantitative analyses 131

reputation 119

academic conformity 40

‘academic freedom’ 35

academic labour

excellence 118–19

insecurity 46

precarity 32, 117–18

quantitative analyses 114

research as 25

academic research see research academics

academic reviewers, impact evaluation 72, 74, 76–7, 81

academics

definitions 9

reconceptualization of 2

response to neoliberalism 37

Academics4Change collective 112

‘accelerated Academy’ concept 7

access problems, Parliament 101

accountability

fair system of 17–33

illusory nature of 90

scientific expressions of 136

activism 10, 32–3, 140

administrative authorities 114

administrative sub-divisions 30

administrative tasks, academics 1–2, 9–10

Adorno, T. 28, 31

Alvesson, Mats 31

applied research(ers) 50–51, 57–60, 62, 64, 68

see also impactful researchers

arts and humanities management 109

audit culture 89–90

authorship, ICS evaluation 74

autonomy, institutional 138

Bakhtin, M. 144

Barrie, S. 37

Bath University 86, 93

Becher, T. 50

Bill, A. 47

Bloch, E. 6

Bourdieu, P. 83, 90

Breuer, A. 45

Brexit 30, 102, 135

Brown, Wendy 79

Buckingham, Robert 40

bullying 36

Busch-Vishniac, Hene 40

businesses, universities as 112

Butler, N. 38

Cairney, P. 88

career progression 25, 50, 120–21

the carnivalesque 144

chance, linkage mechanisms 87

change theory 76

Chubb, Jenn 71, 75

claims to impact 79–80, 103–4

cloistered existence, parliamentarians 100–101

co-option process 46

collective action

academic welfare 142

mobilization 139–40

collective protest 45, 122

collective submission, REF system 65–6

Collini, Stefan 112, 117

commerciality 60

commodity, impact as 128–35

common property 115

‘community’, sense of 144–5

see also academic community; parliamentary community; policy communities

competitive accountability

death of 140

definitions 4–9

disclaiming 107–24

paradoxes 125–41

producing 49–70

recognizing 85–106

competitive performance 26–7

competitiveness

identity production 143

research production 19–20

science 32

confidentiality 60

conformity 38, 40

‘conscientization’ process 6, 45–6

consensus, impact studies 83

consultative leadership 121–2

consumerism 28, 29

contracts 22, 118

Cox, Brian 76

credibility of academics 95

critical activism 32–3, 140

critical agency 29

critical solidarity 34

criticality

as ‘disruptive behaviour’ 47

possibilities of 38

culture change 134

culture industry 27–9, 31

Davies, William 19

Debord, Guy 29

decision-making, groups 129

dependent community, academics 107

Derrick, G. 128

despair discourse 132

dialectical dance 5–6

digital agora 43–6, 47

digitalization 7, 12, 44–5

dirigiste compulsions 35–6

disciplinary panels 73, 75, 84

discourse

of despair 132

of doing 132, 138

Dismore, H. 44

‘disruptive behaviour’ 47

dissent, acts of 37–42, 47, 111, 119

doctoral work 118

doing, discourse of 132, 138

‘doxa’ 90

earning potential see pay

economic catastrophe 2008 11

economic prosperity 135–6

economic responsibility, education 36

economic self-rationalization, ICS document 56

‘educated hope’ 6

education, economic responsibility 36

emotional engagement 47, 122–3

emotional investment, ‘game-playing’ 46

emotional manipulation 91

empirical data collection 14

‘employee of the month’ syndrome 7

engaged research(ers) 50–53, 58, 60–63, 100, 125

Enlightenment ideals 19, 28

evaluation criteria 54, 71–84, 129–30

evidence-based policy 90–91

evidence capture, impact studies 55, 60, 73, 79–81

evidence/policy interface 89, 92, 99, 102–3

evidence submission 87–8, 95

excellence

academic labour 118–19

constituents of 128

as dominant paradigm 29

public intellectuals 133

REF indicators 23, 130–31

in science 18

exclusion, peripheral zones 42–3, 45

expertise 11–12

faculty members, FTE numbers 23–4

fair system of accountability 17–33

fear and excellence 119

financial return, excellence 130

financial reward, impact studies 82

see also pay

‘flow-through’ process 103

focus groups 94

Frankfurt School 17

free-market principles 26, 27

freedom, academic 35

Freire, P. 6

full-time equivalent (FTE) model 23–4, 66

funding

doctoral work 118

higher education 24, 75–7

performance-based 7–9, 62

quality-related 8, 18, 20, 65–6, 68, 127, 130

‘game-playing’ 46, 91, 143–4

Giroux, Henry and Susan 5

global knowledge 44–5

governance technologies 67, 69, 74–5, 139

government-sponsored review, REF system 17

grant income 116

Grimm, Stefan 40

group concept 77–8, 83, 129

‘habitus’ 83

Halffman, W. 29

HE see higher education

Hedgecoc, Adam 73, 80

HEFCE see Higher Education Funding Council for England

Henderson, Mark 136

heteropias see peripheral zones

hierarchies

institutional 111

managerialist 110

high-value commodity, impact as 128–35

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) 24, 75–7

higher education (HE)

marketization 4–5, 17–18, 28

neoliberal critique 3

neoliberalization 17, 34–8, 40, 43, 45–6, 78

policy innovations 1

‘prestige economy’ 5

see also universities

homogeneity, evidence/policy 102

Hong Kong student protests 42

Horkheimer, M. 28

Humboldtian research vision 89

ICS see impact case studies

identity production, academics 143

impact

commodification 128–35

constitution of 75

of knowledge 115–16

leadership model 123

looseness of term 75

parliamentary perspectives 103–4

public engagement as 115, 133

of research 8–9, 12–13, 129, 134–5

impact agenda, REF 126, 134, 137

impact case studies (ICS) 14

emergence/consolidation 139

engaged researchers 125

evaluation 73–4

narrative quality 80–81

parliamentary perspectives 93, 96

policy communities 85–6, 91–2

‘policy-informed evidence’ 136

research stratification 127–8

submission 2021 66–8

survey 49–70

impact draft 60

impact evaluation 71–84, 129–30

impact ownership 126–7

impact snowball effect 54–5

‘impact tax’ 60

impactful researchers 50, 63, 127

see also applied research

incentivization 129, 134

inclusivity 25–6

income

from research 66–7, 131

grants 116

independence of academics 7

independent community, managers 107

individual agency 30

individual identity 29

industrial action 107, 110, 124

see also strike action

inequality, manifestations of 17

Inglis, F. 43

Institute for Policy Research (IPR), Bath University 86, 93

institutional agents 123

institutional autonomy 138

institutional capital 45

institutional hierarchies 111

institutional managers see managerial …

institutional manipulation, impact evaluation 79

institutional ownership of impact 126–7

institutionalization of academics 10–11, 13, 29

instrumentalization 29

intellectual agents 123

intellectual dimension, academic community 113–14

intellectual labour, pursuits of 107–8

intellectual leadership 109, 113

intellectual space 140

intellectuals

academics as 4–6, 9–14, 68–9, 97–8, 116–17

excellence 133

self-concept 125

teaching/research 108

international collaboration 25

internationalization 44

invisibility of academics 45–6

IPR see Institute for Policy Research

Jacoby, Russell 10

Kennedy, Michael 44–5

Kligyte, G. 37

knowledge creation/production 114–16, 126–7, 134–6

knowledge democratization 12

knowledge mediation 13–14

knowledge transfer programmes 89

knowledge-users-cum-producers 134

Krücken, Georg 89

labour market 25

see also academic labour; intellectual labour

leadership 109, 111–13, 121–3

league table positionality 82

likeability of academics 95

linkage mechanisms 86–8, 98

lobbying activities 96–7

local policy communities 104

low salience, parliamentary context 100

major claimants, public good 63–6

managerial control 30, 119

managerial leadership 113

managerial positions/staff 1, 107–8, 111, 120

managerial structures 109–10

managerialist hierarchies 110

Marcuse, Herbert 29–30, 31

marginalization, public engagement 132

Marginson, S. 44

marketization 4–5, 13, 17–18, 28

Members of Parliament (MPs) 92–3

Merton, R.K. 5, 34

micro-contributions, public good 63–6

mobility of academics 119–20

modalities of research praxis 83

monograph submissions 24

moral code 90

moral fortitude, academics 140–41

MPs see Members of Parliament

narrative quality 80–81

see also story-telling

neoliberal critique 3, 120

neoliberal sensibility 78–9, 134

neoliberalism/neoliberalization 1

higher education 17, 34–8, 40, 43, 45–6, 78

internationalization 44

public intellectual life 116

New Labour policies 11

new public management 17, 19, 72, 110

New Right policy community 134, 135–6

Nisbet, Robert 11

(non)participation zones 34–8, 132, 144

non-portability, research 24–7, 126

Olssen, Mark 130

one-dimensionality, REF system 29–30

ownership

of impact 126–7

of knowledge 115–16

Parliament 91–104, 105–6

parliamentary community 92, 137

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) 92, 94

parliamentary select committees 87, 93, 96–7, 101

(non)participation zones 34–8, 132, 144

participatory venture, impact studies 83

pathway to impact model 61

pay 107–24

see also financial reward

PBRFS see performance-based research funding system

peer reviews 77–8

pensions 107–24

performance, competitive 26–7

performance assessment/evaluation 8, 18, 65, 72–84

performance-based expectations 53

performance-based research funding system (PBRFS) 7–9, 62

performance management regime 4, 31

‘performative’ mindset of academics 5

performative turn 7

peripheral zones, (non)participation 34–8, 132

policy communities 85–91, 98, 104, 134–6

policy/evidence interface 89, 92, 99, 102–3

policy impact, research 91–2

‘policy-informed evidence’ 136

policy innovations 1

policy-making process 103

policy permutations 17–33

policy–research nexus 86

political agency 10, 13–14, 97–8

political interests, parliamentarians 98–9, 137

political values, academic facts 88–9

politicization 57, 97–8

popularization/popularity 46, 59

populism 11

positional goods 5, 18, 126, 136

POST see Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

power, scrutiny of 11–12

Power, Michael 18, 38

powerful zones, (non)participation 34–8

precarity 32, 117–18, 140, 142–4

‘prestige economy’ 5

private ownership, knowledge 116

Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research (PVCR) 73

productive marginalization 132

professional victimization 6

professionalization of academics 10–11

Profs4Change collective 112

public accountability 56, 89

public engagement

as critical activism 32–3

culture of 9

as impact 75–6, 115, 133

productive marginalization 132

science 30

survey respondents 49

public good 63–6, 136

public intellectuals 4–6, 9–14, 97–8, 108, 116, 125, 133, 140

public role, research 3–5

‘pure’ science 50, 57–8

PVCR see Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research

QR research funding see quality-related research funding

quality-related (QR) research funding 8, 18, 20, 65–6, 68, 127, 130

quantitative analyses, academic contributions 114, 131

Radder, H. 29

RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) 20

reality, consumerism and 29

reappointment of academics 5–7

recruitment of researchers 25

REF (Research Excellence Framework) 7–9, 12–14, 16–20, 65–8, 90

amendments 26–33

government-sponsored review 17

impact evaluation 71–84

implementation responsibility 142–5

knowledge impact 115–16

paradoxes 125–31, 133–9

parliamentary perspectives 93, 96, 101–2, 104

policy communities 85–6, 92

Stern review 21–2

survey 49–70

REF20148, 15, 21, 27, 39, 49, 51–2, 65–6, 71–2, 74, 76, 80–82, 85–6, 91–2, 95–6, 102, 104, 127–30

REF20217, 20, 52, 63, 65–8, 76, 82, 123, 126, 128, 139

remuneration see pay

reports, parliamentary 99

reputation 24, 119, 121

research

commitment to 108

competitiveness 19–20

functions in impact agenda 137

leadership model 123

production of 19–20

stratification 127–8

units of assessment 20

research academics

policy impact 91–2

policy–research nexus 86

public role 3–5

REF legitimacy 137–8

‘research active’ staff 22, 118

Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 20

research evaluation system 19–20

Research Excellence Framework see REF…

research funding

performance-based 7–9, 62

quality-related 8, 18, 20, 65–6, 68, 127, 130

research outputs

assessment of 65

consumerism 28

knowledge 116

non-portability 24–7

Stern review 21

UoA level 23–4

research–policy nexus 86

research praxis 74–5, 83, 139

research technicians 10

resistance

governance technologies 69

(non)participation 34–8

parliamentarians 105

retirement of academics 64

‘returnability’, excellence outputs 131

Robin, Corey 43

Ross, Andrew 13

Rowe, Gene 54

Rummery, K. 88

Said, Edward 10–11

salaries see pay

science

applied research 57–8, 68

competitiveness 32

economic prosperity 135–6

engaged research 50

Enlightenment ideals 19

excellence in 18

impact of research 129, 134–5

management within 108–9

public engagement 30

roles of academics 94

tenets of practice 81

science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) 136–7

‘scientific accountability’ 137

‘scientific’ judgements 79–80

select committee inquiries 87, 93, 103, 105

selectivity/selective approach 20, 23–4, 38, 65–6, 130

self-concept

engaged researchers 53

fragility of 61, 71, 88

governance technologies and 67

impact evaluators 78

institutionalization 13, 79

limitations 2–3

locating 6–7

public intellectuals 125

strike action effects 124

self-interest, researchers 62

senior management 107–8, 119

senior policy actors 104–5

senior university leaders 114

sensibility, neoliberal 78–9, 134

sensitivity of academics 105–6

Smith, Katherine 78–9

Snow, C.P. 108–9

‘snowflake’ sensitivity 106

social media 45

social sciences 85–6, 91, 97, 129, 137

social theory 15, 17

socialization 77

‘soft’ versions, self-concept 3

South African student protests 42

the ‘spectacle’ 29

Spoelstra, S. 38

stakeholder relations 55–61, 104

STEM see science, technology, engineering and maths

Stern review 17–26

story-telling 128

see also narrative quality

stratification, researchers 127–8

strike action 110–12, 121–4

see also industrial action

student dissent 37, 111

student protests 40–43, 47

sub-panels, impact evaluation 72, 75, 77

‘super-academics’ 53

Sutton, Paul 5

‘system-blaming’ 79

Taylorist approach 59–60, 116

‘teach-ins’ 110–11

teaching commitments 108

teaching-only contracts 22

technicians, researchers as 10

technological innovation 12

technologies of governance 69, 74–5, 139

theory, impact evaluation 76, 81

‘third-mission activities’ 5, 9

time periods, impact evaluation 71–2

Tomlinson, Michael 4

Trowler, P. 50

Trumpism 135–6

trust 94–6, 109–10, 123, 136–7

trustworthiness 105

UK universities

leadership 122

REF impact agenda 126

science production 68

student protests 41–2

units of assessment (UoAs) 20, 23–4, 66

universal submission 8, 20, 22, 24, 27, 66

universities

as businesses 112

intellectual identities 10

leadership 122

REF impact agenda 126

science production 68

student protests 41–2

transition 2

see also higher education

university management see managerial …

user-assessors, impact evaluation 72, 74, 76–7, 81

Välimaa, Jussi 19

valorization, academic community 131

vanity 144–5

vice-chancellors 107–8, 112–13, 117, 121

Waitere, H.J. 37

Wakefield, K. 44

Walker, R. 43

Warner, Marina 38–9

‘white noise wave’ motif 61–4

whole-community approach 137

‘wicked problems’ 38

Wonders of the Solar System (Cox) 76