Towards European Science
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Towards European Science

Dynamics and Policy of an Evolving European Research Space

Edited by Linda Wedlin and Maria Nedeva

Since the concept of the European Research Area was launched at the beginning of this century, significant effort has been made to realise the vision of a coherent space for science and research in Europe. But what is such a space, and how is it developing? This timely book analyses the dynamics of change in policy and governance of science and research within Europe over the past decade. It widens the scope of traditional policy analysis by focusing attention on the interaction between policy rationales, new governance mechanisms, and the organisational dynamics of the scientific field. The contributors build a novel analytical framework to understand the European research space as one shifting from a fragmented space of ‘science in Europe’ to one that is labelled ‘European Science’, and the chapters explore dynamics of this shift through the lenses of political science, organisation theory, science policy and related analytical traditions.
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Chapter 6: Transnational organisations defining quality and excellence

Linda Wedlin and Tina Hedmo


A central element in the contemporary landscape of European science is the explicit and elaborate rhetoric centered on excellence and quality. In this chapter, we explore the role of this policy rhetoric, and the general discourse on excellence and quality, in shaping a European governance field for higher education and research. How and why have European systems of assessment and evaluation of quality and excellence developed, and what does that development mean? We explore the role of new systems and actors at the European level by analysing two parallel developments in higher education and in research respectively. We analyse, first, the development of the European Quality Assurance Register, EQAR, which is a register of national accreditation agencies that comply with a set of European standards for quality assurance practice, and second, the establishment of the European Research Council and how they shape notions of excellence at the European level. These examples highlight how transnational systems of governance have developed gradually over time, and how new organizations are beginning to populate the academic landscape and gain authority to establish criteria and set standards for what constitutes quality and excellence in this field. As such, these organizations have a significant impact on the organizational architectonic of the scientific field.

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