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Abstract

Select groups and organizations embrace practices that perpetuate their inferiority. The result is the phenomenon we call “mediocrity.” This article examines the conditions under which mediocrity is selected and maintained by groups over time. Mediocrity is maintained by a key social process: the marginalization of the adept, which is a response to the group problem of what to do with the highly able. The problem arises when a majority of a group is comprised of average members who must decide what to do with high performers in the group. To solve this problem, reward systems are subverted to benefit the less able and the adept are cast as deviant. Marginalization is a resolution of two tensions: marginalization of the adept for their behavior, and protection from the adept for the mediocre. The American research university is used as an example to describe the phenomenon and to formulate a theoretic argument. The forms and consequences of marginalization are discussed. Marginalizing the adept illustrates an anti-meritocratic behavioral pattern which serves to sustain social systems on which all people, however able, depend.
... To a large extent this is a well-established theoretical and empirical fact of the science system (e.g., [6-10]). The supposedly "best" researchers and units benefit from self-enforcing processes, confirming and strengthening their status, yet there are also limits to "cumulative advantages" [6,11], and various social mechanisms seemingly to some degree act to restrain unequal distributions of funding [2,12]. Obviously, this is interesting from a science policy perspective. ...
... WoS is chosen because of its better data quality and longer historical coverage compared to alternatives. As a result, a small number of CoEs (12) within the humanities, social and computer sciences were excluded from the analysis due to inadequate coverage in WoS, leaving in all 57 CoEs for the analysis (another 9 CoEs were started in 2009/10 and another 12 in 2015. These are not included in the analysis). ...
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The present paper examines the relation between size, accumulation and performance for research grants, where we examine the relation between grant size for Centres of Excellence (CoE) funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF) and various ex post research performance measures, including impact and shares of highly cited articles. We examine both the relation between size and performance and also how performance for CoEs evolves over the course of grant periods. In terms of dynamics, it appears that performance over the grant period (i.e. 10 years) is falling for the largest CoEs, while it is increasing for those among the smallest half. Overall, multivariate econometric analysis finds evidence that performance is increasing in grant size and over time. In both cases, the relation appears to be non-linear, suggesting that there is a point at which performance peaks. The CoEs have also been very successful in securing additional funding, which can be viewed as a 'cumulative effect' of center grants. In terms of new personnel, the far majority of additional funding is spent on early career researchers, hence, this accumulation would appear to have a 'generational' dimension, allowing for scientific expertise to be passed on to an increasing number of younger researchers.
... 247-251), Brennan (among others) suggests that these values have been replaced by such ideals as "competitiveness" and "entrepreneurship" (Brennan, 2010, p. 234;also Marginson & Considine, 2000;Slaughter, 1993;Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Even the value Clark sees assigned to "competence" (Clark, 1983, p. 245-247), seemingly so central to the order of higher education because of its alleged meritocratic premises, may be questioned in ways today as unlike previously (Hermanowicz, 2013). For instance, the world-wide enlargement of the professoriate to meet demands of rising student enrollment, as well as concomitant changes in appointment type, call faculty quality, training, and ability into question (Altbach, 2002(Altbach, , 2003Enders & de Weert, 2009a). ...
... Nevertheless, Musselin (2010) has produced a theoretically robust study that compares the hiring practices for academics at research universities in France, Germany, and the United States. Universities are characteristically understood to operate according to principles of meritocracy (Hermanowicz, 2013). But Musselin's work goes to show that in practice this is often far from the case. ...
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The international professoriate consists of the world’s teachers, researchers, and scholars who are employed by universities, schools, colleges, centers, and institutes as the primary academic staff of higher education institutions. The size and scope of the international professoriate, mirroring the role played by higher education in the social organization of societies throughout the world, has changed tremendously in the last quarter-century. The present work reviews major recent efforts to study the professoriate comparatively. The elemental theoretic foundations of comparative study of the professoriate are examined, which includes both classic and contemporary formulations. Guiding theoretic ideas and puzzles are identified, including center and periphery, convergence and differentiation, growth and accretion. The review considers four clusters of major topical forays, representing both empirical and analytic work on the contemporary international professoriate. The clusters of work include academic freedom; contracts and compensation; career structures and roles; and an account of a recent surge of survey research exemplified by the “Changing Academic Profession” project. Taking stock of the current situation of work, the review concludes by explaining three elements, gleaned from examples of outstanding scholarship of the past, that are essential to preserving a future for important comparative inquiry on the professoriate.
... Scientific skills are limited and there are reasons to expect that some 'preeminent departments will decline and other rise' (Merton 1988: 618;DiPrete and Eirich 2006). Moreover, various social mechanisms inhibit highly unequal distributions of funding and other benefits (Hicks and Katz 2011;Hermanowicz 2011). ...
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In the past two decades, centres of excellence (CoE) and other ‘research excellence initiatives’ likely to increase the cumulative advantages and stratification of science, have been implemented in many countries. Based on empirical studies of CoE in four Nordic countries, this paper examines how the resources provided by CoE schemes (generous long-term funding, prestige and visibility) add to the success and growth dynamics of the CoE. The data indicate a modified Matthew effect with ceilings and limits avoiding excessive accumulation of resources. Important impacts of the CoE are found, in particular in terms of enabling more interdisciplinary collaboration and risk-taking and enhancing international recruitment to the research areas involved. But, in contrast to what might be expected, the CoE grant seem to add less to the relative citation rate of those already performing at the highest level, than for those performing at a somewhat lower level prior to the CoE grant.
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The Gallipoli Campaign began on 25 April 1915, when the British-French Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) attacked the Ottoman 5th Army on the Gallipoli peninsula in contemporary Turkey. The first MEF troops to land were the “Anzacs”, a nickname for the all-volunteer Australians and New Zealanders. The operation was one of the worst military disasters in history and ended in a humiliating withdrawal by the MEF January, 1916. Despite causing an estimated 142,000 Allied and 251,000 Turkish casualties, after more than a century, the campaign remains central to myths of Australian, New Zealand and Turkish nationhood. In this chapter, I argue the bungled MEF operations were inextricably entwined in a wider culture of “endemic disorder” in the British War Council in London and General Headquarters in Gallipoli. I maintain men in these organisations planned and executed the campaign with interlinked ideologies of imperial masculinity and racial superiority they thought would easily defeat culturally and militarily inferior Ottomans. Instead, a combination of these belief systems and outmoded military techniques foundered against a determined and adept enemy, and the campaign developed into a classic “fog of war”. This dispassionate perspective on military operations is vital for understanding the dissonant reactions to the Gallipoli battlefields by the Australian and New Zealand tourists I travelled with and interviewed for the book.