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In several countries, national governments have implemented science policy reforms to elevate research excellence and to promote managerialist principles with an aim to gain success in the global knowledge-based economy. This qualitative study explores discursive responses to the current science policy reforms in Finnish and Swedish sociology. Drawing on a Bourdieusian perspective and a two-country research context, the research scrutinises the dynamics between the field of sociology and science policy paying particular attention to how the science policy ideals on excellence appear in the internal discursive struggles surrounding legitimate science among professors of sociology, who are conceived as a scientific elite. The results show that the excellence ideals are met in various, conflicting ways in sociology. Furthermore, there are national differences as Finnish sociology expresses more compliance towards science policy reforms than its Swedish counterpart, which seems more able to distance itself from these ideals and cherish traditional academic values. These findings evince that although science policy trends are becoming increasingly global, national university traditions and political cultures entail a slightly different national shape to seemingly similar reforms, which again, shapes the way the science policy incentives are made sense of at the grassroots level of academia, even within this particular discipline.
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
Science Policy Ideals of Excellence within the Field of Sociology
by Johanna Hokka
In several countries, national governments have implemented science policy reforms
to elevate research excellence and to promote managerialist principles with an aim to
gain success in the global knowledge-based economy. This qualitative study explores
discursive responses to the current science policy reforms in Finnish and Swedish
sociology. Drawing on a Bourdieusian perspective and a two-country research context,
the research scrutinises the dynamics between the field of sociology and science policy
paying particular attention to how the science policy ideals on excellence appear in the
internal discursive struggles surrounding legitimate science among professors of sociology,
who are conceived as a scientific elite. The results show that the excellence ideals are
met in various, conflicting ways in sociology. Furthermore, there are national dierences
as Finnish sociology expresses more compliance towards science policy reforms than its
Swedish counterpart, which seems more able to distance itself from these ideals and cherish
traditional academic values. These findings evince that although science policy trends are
becoming increasingly global, national university traditions and political cultures entail a
slightly dierent national shape to seemingly similar reforms, which again, shapes the way
the science policy incentives are made sense of at the grassroots level of academia, even
within this particular discipline.
Keywords: Science policy, excellence, sociology, legitimate science, scientific capital
Author: Johanna Hokka, Phd student
Research Centre for Knowledge, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (TaSTI),
Tampere University, Finland.
Licensing: All content in NJSTS is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license. This means that anyone is free to share (copy and redistribute
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NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
Global competition has increased European universities’
commitment to excellence as an all-embracing objective. The
promotion of excellence discourse has been accelerated by the
policy convergence prompted by supranational organisations
such as the OECD and European Union (EU). At the EU-level,
the Bologna Process ensuring high-quality standards and
facilitating the comparability of qualifications throughout
Europe and the establishment of the new funding mechanism,
the European Research Council (ERC), have played a crucial role
in defining the notions of excellence in the European context.
The ERC has promoted competition as a core mechanism to
distribute funding for the most excellent research and the
use of international peer review as a criterion for evaluating
excellence. At the national level, excellence rhetoric has guided
reforms in funding allocation systems and the construction of
research evaluation systems in order to achieve ‘world-class’
research. (Wedlin and Hedmo 2015.) Also, the rise of New Public
Management (NPM) doctrines in recent decades has increased
the use of steering mechanisms, especially performance-based
funding to ensure the productivity and efficiency of universities
(Elzinga 2012; Slaughter and Leslie 1997). These reforms
have aimed to enhance competitiveness, improve academic
performance and increase the internationalisation of national
science systems (Pinheiro et al. 2014; Sørensen et al. 2016).
However, despite the stated policy convergence, the different
national governance models and different university traditions
generate national variations in the ways in which NPM reforms
are put into practice (Bleiklie et al. 2017).
The concept of excellence and attempts to implement and
operationalise it have been the object of considerable criticism.
The performance measures are seen to cause unintended
consequences (Weingart 2005); they are blamed for focusing too
much on quantity rather than quality of research (Gläser et al.
2002) leading to a reification of individual performance measures
(Burrows 2003). Additionally, since research excellence is often
paralleled with English-language publications and the indicators
are calculated for journals indexed in the mostly English-language
Web of Science (WoS), these measures are considered inadequate
for addressing the social sciences and humanities (SSH), which
produce more native-language publications for national audiences
(Hicks et al. 2015). Furthermore, whilst policy declarations have
promoted excellence, they have also highlighted the need to foster
social relevance in research, which in turn, has created tensions
in universities as they struggle to find a balance between global
academic excellence and direct contributions to local and national
economic development and relevance (Pinheiro et al. 2014).
Notwithstanding these criticisms, some scholars argue that the
current indicators, while providing transparent rules, democratised
the previous, potentially more ‘nepotistic’ method of evaluating
scholars (Fochler and de Rijcke 2017).
Despite strong interest in the influence of science policy reforms
in academic contexts, less attention is paid to how the science
policy incentives are made sense of at the grassroots level
of academia. The existing body of literature has shown that
academics in general either support, comply with or resist the
reforms by appealing to traditional academic values (Santiago and
Carvalho 2012; Ylijoki 2014). Additionally, few studies examining
the epistemic eects of performance metrics from the micro-
level perspective have focused on analysing life sciences (Fochler
et al. 2016; Müller and de Rijcke 2017) and arts and humanities
(Hammarfelt and de Rijcke 2016). These studies demonstrate
that the performance measures have become a dominant way
of ascribing worth to academic practices in life sciences, and the
development of publication patterns have followed the formal
policy measures in humanities. However, previous studies have
not taken into account the internal variance of disciplines and
conflicts in terms of what is conceived as ‘good’ science. Drawing
on a Bourdieusian perspective, this study zooms in on the complex
dynamics between the disciplinary field and science policy by
examining how the science policy ideals on excellence appear in
the internal struggles surrounding legitimate science among the
scientific elite of sociology in Finland and in Sweden. As alluded to
before, although science policy trends are becoming increasingly
global, national university traditions and political cultures still give
slightly dierent national shapes to seemingly similar reforms,
which makes national contrasting important. This study, by
combining a Bourdieusian framework and a two-country research
context, contributes to a deeper understanding of the sense-
making at the grassroots level by showing the various, conflicting
ways of receiving the excellence discourse within sociology, and
the apparent dierences between the dynamics of sociology and
science policy in these two national contexts.
Sociology serves as an especially interesting case to analyse since,
in recent years, it has gone through a process of fragmentation,
which is often discussed under the rubric of ‘crisis’ because it
is seen to erode the disciplinary coherence of sociology. Some
scholars say that this fragmentation makes sociology especially
vulnerable to the current metric culture making it unable to
sustain its critical sensibility (Holmwood 2010). According to
Burawoy (2005), today’s competitive university context forces
sociologists to focus only on earning academic credentials
through highly-ranked scientific journals for peers at the expense
of disseminating the ideas of democracy and humanism to lay
society. This, in turn, marginalises the core mission of sociology,
that is, the defence of humanity. However, Burawoy’s (2005)
contention represents only one of the many visions of the
mission of sociology. Previous studies have shown that there is no
shared understanding of legitimate sociology inside the field but
multiple, even conflicting views on what ‘good’ sociology ought
to be (Abend 2006; Hokka 2018).
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
By focusing on the identification of discursive responses to
conditions and dynamics in the current science policy regime,
the research questions guiding the study are: What kinds of
discourses on legitimate science are used among the scientific
elite of sociology in Finland and in Sweden? What kind of stance is
taken towards science policy ideals related to excellence? How do
the discourses dier between the Finnish and Swedish contexts?
Next, I will expand on the Bourdieusian perspective applied in the study
before considering the cases themselves and discussing my findings.
The Theoretical Frame
For Bourdieu (1988, 1999), the social space is composed of
hierarchically structured, semiautonomous fields that function in
accordance with their own internal logic, rules and practices. A field
is an arena in which actors struggle for power. Since the struggles
usually take the form of competition regulated by field-specific
rules, Bourdieu uses a game metaphor to illustrate the actions in a
field. In a scientific field, the struggles surround power to determine
what is conceived of as legitimate science. Thus, the struggles also
determine the conditions under which the actors will be accepted
in the field, as well as the dominant forms of scientific capital
associated with the production of ‘good’ science. Any property of
knowledge production or dissemination, professional trajectory or
other aspect of scientific practice can become a form of capital if
it is widely valued. Whether a given property gains a high or low
volume of capital depends on the recognised value it obtains in the
scientific struggle. In these struggles, distinctions serve as practice
to separate properties with high capital volume from those with
low capital volume (Bourdieu 1984, 1993).
As the fields are only relatively autonomous, the more autonomy a
field has, the more capacity it has to establish and uphold its rules.
With regard to the scientific field, science policy, by managing
resources and institutions of the academic domain, extends its
power over the scientific field; therefore, the degree of autonomy
of the scientific field is in the hands of science policy. According
to Bourdieu, when the autonomous functioning of a field is
defied by an external field, struggles within the field grow even
more ferocious. Then, those actors who are comfortable with the
emerging rules clash with those who are attached to the past.
Through strategies, the actors either oppose or embrace the new
rules of the game and simultaneously strive to discredit the forms
of capital upon which their opponents rest to valorise the species
of capital that they possess in greater measure. (Bourdieu and
Wacquant 1992.)
Previously, the Bourdieusian perspective has been applied
in analysing sociology in the face of science policy demands
concerning the social utility of academic research. Albert (2003)
demonstrated that despite the increasing science policy demands,
field-specific internal dynamics still determine what is conceived
of as legitimate in Canadian sociology. Conversely, Kropp and Blok
(2011) demonstrated that scientific practices in Danish sociology
have been strongly imposed upon by science policy. In this study,
Bourdieu’s theory serves as a ‘hermeneutic tool’ to analyse what
kind of discursive strategies the field of sociology occupied with
dierent visions of legitimate science adopts to address science
policy ideals of excellence. The interest lays in how the ideals
of excellence shape the symbolic value of the various forms of
scientific capital, and how, through distinctions, the actors strive
to accumulate the recognized value of those forms of scientific
capital that mesh with their vision of legitimate science. In
addition, I will scrutinise whether the strategies used in sociology
have national particularities. Considering a two-country research
context provides the opportunity of attending to and making
some claims about the autonomy of the field in two distinct
national contexts.
Next, I will present the higher education systems and recent
science policy incentives in Finland and in Sweden to illuminate
which properties hold symbolic value in the current science policy
regime and what rules science policy invites or compels sociology
to adopt.
Finnish and Swedish Science Policy Context
Finnish and Swedish higher education (HE) systems are often
described as being part of a single ‘Nordic model’ founded on a
strong welfare state and the emphasis it places on equality and
democratic values (Elken et al. 2016). With both countries becoming
increasingly positioned in the international context, these values
have, however, given way to the ideals of competitiveness,
eciency and excellence (Pinheiro et al. 2014). In fact, due to the
great share of competitive, external funding, Finland with fifty-
eight percent and Sweden with fifty-five percent (in 2015), these
two countries represent one of the most competitive funding
systems in Europe (Jacob 2015; Saarnivaara 2015).
When taking a more detailed look at the HE systems in the two
countries, Finland has a dual system, consisting of universities
and twenty-four universities of applied sciences, whereas
Swedish HE is composed of forty institutions in which twelve are
older and four are newer universities, five are university colleges,
and the rest are private higher education institutions. The older
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
universities receive about ninety percent of all research funding,
while the rest focus on education, which makes the Swedish
system stratified (Ljungberg et al. 2010).
In both countries, the funding systems have been renewed to better
measure scientific performance and to support excellence. In 2013,
the Finnish government introduced a funding formula that aimed to
create ‘high-quality, profiled and eective international university’
(MEC 2011). The model highlights scientific output and external
funding as core indicators since scientific publications account for
thirteen percent and external funding, nine percent of the model.
The renewed model also introduced ‘internationalisation’ as a
new indicator that includes international teaching and research
personnel and PhD degrees awarded to foreign nationals. (Kivistö et
al. 2017.) The share of funding based on publications has constantly
increased, being 0.3 percent in 2007‒2009 and 1.7 percent in
2010‒2012, but in 2013, the share increased considerably, to thirteen
percent. Also, a new way of calculating scientific publications
was implemented in 2013. The funding of scientific publications
has been tied to the scheme known as the ‘Publication Forum’ in
which peer-reviewed publications are divided into a three-level
categorisation based to their evaluated scientific relevance with
level three representing the ‘top’, level two ‘leading’ and level one
representing ‘basic’. Publications are also awarded points based on
publication channels so that monographs in the third level receive
the highest score. The Publication Forum has been frequently
criticised for not taking into account SSH fields since Finnish
language publications are mostly ranked at levels one or two; level
three includes only international outlets. According to critiques,
the SSH fields are undervalued and are in a disadvantaged position
in the funding model. (Pölönen et al. 2018.)
In Sweden, the goal of the renewed funding model, introduced in
2009, was to ‘work more actively with research quality’ (Government
Bill 2008–2009) and to enhance the internationalisation of research.
Previously, the institutional block grant was allocated on a historical
basis, that is, the government subsidised each domain. The current
model is based on two quality indicators, research publications/
citations and external funding, each accounting for ten percent.
The research publications and citations are calculated on the basis
of bibliometric indicators gathered via the WoS. Also in Sweden, the
system of calculating publications was found disadvantageous for
SSH because less than ten percent of the publications from the SSH
fields are visible in WoS. Therefore, a sophisticated field-weighted
measurement system was launched. (Jacob 2015.)
1 In Sweden from 2018, allocation is based on three criteria: performance in attracting project funding, publications and co-operation with companies and society.
In both countries, declarations of science policy have cited
issues of social relevance and the utility of academic research
as important, but during the time when the interviews were
gathered, the national funding models in both countries lacked
policy instruments that support social relevance.1 However, the
public funding bodies (the Academy of Finland and the Swedish
Research Council, which allocate grant money on competitive
basis for the research of the ‘highest quality’), besides emphasising
scientific quality, innovativeness, international visibility, international
collaboration and mobility, also highlight the social relevance of
research in their funding criteria (Aksnes et al. 2012).
Despite similarities, some national dierences exist. The clear
dierence between Finland and Sweden is that Sweden has not
carried the national funding model over as-is into universities’
internal allocation schemes (Hammarfelt and Åström 2015),
whereas in Finland, universities have proactively copied the funding
model’s fundamental principles into their own allocation systems
(Kallio and Kallio 2014). According to Auranen and Nieminen
(2010), this makes the Finnish system more competitive than its
Swedish counterpart. In fact, it is argued that the Finnish model is
one of the most performance-oriented funding models in Europe
(de Boer et al. 2015). Furthermore, Finland has been more radical
in modernising its HE according to NPM principle than Sweden,
and the shift towards market-oriented HE was exceptionally
rapid and profound. In Finland, the reforms have been strongly
politically steered and state-led, whereas in Sweden, the shift
towards NPM principles has been more moderate (Auranen and
Nieminen 2010; Pelkonen and Teräväinen-Litardo 2013). This
is illustrated, for instance, by the change in the legal statuses
of universities in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, the status
of universities changed from state administrations to public
corporations strengthening their financial and administrative
autonomy and abolishing the status of employees as civil
servants in 2010. In Sweden, however, despite the government’s
eorts to invite universities to apply to leave the civil service and
reconstitute themselves as public foundations, the majority of
universities refused, and they remained government agencies
with their sta retaining their status as civil servants. (Jacob 2015;
Pinheiro et al. 2014.)
When discussing the study’s results, I will examine the place of
these policy incentives, the reforms in funding allocation systems
and the internationalisation targets motivated by excellence in
the sense-making of Finnish and Swedish sociology.
Data and Methods
Two datasets constitute the study’s empirical base: ten interviews
with Finnish professors of sociology and ten with Swedish professors.
The interviewees, all in their fifties and sixties, represented a wide
array of research orientations and epistemological styles. Only
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
three of the interviewees were women (two Swedish, one Finnish),
reflecting the male dominance of Finnish and Swedish sociology in
general. Finland has forty-four professors of sociology, less than
a third of whom are women (Vipunen 2016); the corresponding
number in Sweden is nearly double that at eighty, with about
one-quarter being women (UKÄ 2011). The sociology departments
chosen for this study are nationally leading departments located in
established and research-intensive universities.
The purpose was to trace the discursive responses of sociology to
the science policy reforms from the point of view of informants with
a very special speaker positions in the field (Alasuutari 1995), not to
capture the sense-making of the field in general. The informants
were selected for their standing in the field. They are full-time
professors with permanent positions and eminent scholars having
attained scientific renown nationally and internationally through
their research. Furthermore, they hold major positions in decision-
making bodies through which they control internal reproduction
and serve as gatekeepers to knowledge and reputation in the field
(Bourdieu 1988). Hence, they can be conceptualised as scientific
elite. From this elite position, they have the power to ‘delineate
and embody the values of [their] discipline[s]’ (Becher 1989: 3) and
to make decisions about what constitutes legitimate science in
the field (Bourdieu 1988). This renders the sense-making of these
carefully selected informants especially relevant.
The interview themes ranged from daily work practices and
personal career trajectory to broader themes related to the
transformation of the university sector and its eects on the
status of sociology. As for the analysis, I used discursive reading
to trace the relatively coherent cultural sense-making structures
that captured the distinct visions of legitimate science in sociology
(Chouliaraki and Fairclough 1999). In the analysis process, I first
read through all of the data several times and then selected all
extracts that pertained to the relevant aspects of science policy
in one way or another. From these selected extracts, I inductively
generated data-driven classifications denoted as discourses.
Besides manifesting a certain kind of vision of legitimate sociology,
the discourses also serve as discursive strategies to respond to
the science policy ideals on excellence. To unravel the internal
dynamics in each national context, I examined relationships among
the discourses in each nation’s data through a context-sensitive
close reading. I also paid close attention to the pervasiveness of
the discourses in the sense that if some discourse penetrated
the whole data, it served as dominant discourse. The discourses
are named on the basis of the stance towards the science policy
ideals (supporting, opposing and complying). Each discourse was
utilized by more than one professor, and individual professors
could commit to multiple discourses.
To assure anonymity, neither personal identifiers nor institutional
backgrounds are exposed. The interviewees are represented with
a code composed of a country indicator (FIN for Finland and SWE
for Sweden) plus a unique distinguishing number. In the analysis
section, I have indented longer quotations, while shorter extracts
have been enclosed in quotation marks. In the following section, I
will scrutinise the discourses through four dimensions: publishing,
internationalisation, competition for funding and socialisation of
PhD students. These dimensions are data-driven since they were
frequently brought up by the interviewees.
The Supporting Discourse
In this discourse, the recent science policy reforms are portrayed as
a clear improvement over the ‘old’ logic of the field, that is, they are
supported. This discourse is grounded in a vision in which research
that meets international scientific standards and is internationally
competitive represents legitimate science. Furthermore, an
ecient, determined and competitive approach to research work
is deemed valuable. Hence, the current science policy incentives,
which bring productivity, internationalization and competitiveness,
are embraced. This discourse is frequently used in the Finnish data
but only rarely, if at all, in the Swedish data.
With regard to publishing, today’s performance indicators, with
their tallying of publications in highly-ranked journals, are deemed
favourable for research quality since they encourage striving to be ‘at
the top’ internationally. According to this discourse, the international
scientific community is the arena where ‘real’ science takes place.
Earning one’s spurs and winning prestige among one’s peers occur
through international publishing as ‘certainly international publishing
is the most… appreciation comes namely through that’ (FIN4). Thus,
scientific capital is displayed via international top-tier articles, and they
possess high symbolic value, which is brought out through a distinction
against monographs written in the author’s native language:
Before, there was a strong idea of sociology as national discipline
with [a] national mission. The studies were written in Finnish, and
the most valued form of publication was monograph. It was a
strong way of thinking then but not anymore. At least it does not
prevent writing in English for an international audience. (FIN1)
This distinction presents a conception of monographs as an
out-of-date publication format that belongs to the sociology of
times gone by. This statement implies that times have changed;
sociology has cut its ties to the nation state and simultaneously
the dominance of books written in the native language has
Not only international publishing but also the demands of science
policy for productivity and eciency in terms of publishing are
seen as increasing the quality of research. Eciency is depicted as
going hand in hand with research quality:
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Research rarely becomes better if you just keep harping on it. (FIN3)
If there are no criteria for anything, then…I saw that many of my
older colleagues spent time on futile rumination and dawdling
and the results were still not so good. (FIN1)
According to this discourse, academia enjoyed a far too privileged
position previously since there were no clearly-defined targets
set for scholars. This lack of systematic steering is seen as having
caused irresponsibility since ‘everyone did what they felt like’
(FIN1). Because the current system calls for a determined, well-
directed way of conducting research, it ‘lops o the slackness
that once was called academic freedom’ (FIN3). To highlight the
virtue of eciency, academic freedom is expressed here in terms
of looseness and laxity, even laziness.
Internationalisation as a science policy aim is supported since
participating in the international arena raises evaluation standards
and thereby improves research quality. Previously, it was ‘enough’
to operate in the national sphere, but today scholars are expected
to be active on the international stage. According to this discourse,
the value of internationalisation does not, however, seem evident
to everyone in the field. Some are presented as reluctant to accept
that the game now calls for internationalisation. This can be seen
in the data in characterisations of obstructionists who must be
‘dragged’ or ‘pushed’ into the international arena:
Internationality forces one to put one’s own work into perspective
so that one does not get stuck in a rut of a single national theme
and write about it for decades. Instead, it forces thinking about
its significance in a broader sense and forces to create networks.
Probably there are those who think that it is not nice to write in
English for the international publication forums, and they do not
want to do that on principle. While we have been planning to
establish a new journal, there have been those who ask, ‘Aren’t
there enough international journals? Why can’t we publish in
[the] publication series of the department?’ So there occurs that
kind of critique and suspicion of the prevailing publication trend
and the properties through which to gain merits. (FIN2)
By pointing the finger at those who must be forced to step out of
their comfort zone in the national sphere onto the international
level or those ‘suspicious’ scholars who reject the features now
determining one’s professional trajectory as ‘unpleasant’, this
discourse creates a distinction from actors who do not dare or care
to become international. The expressions used suggest that ‘those
others’ are too comfort-loving, even cowardly, whereas the actors
who are involved with internationalisation are brave enough to
expose themselves internationally. Above all, according to this
discourse, those who withdraw from internationalisation will not
be recognised as competent players in the field.
Similarly, to the demand for productivity in publishing, the competitive
funding system is presented as sharpening and boosting activity in
There is always competition for funding, and it really pisses me
o when all sorts of lousy scholars get money for all sorts of silly
projects. So there is constant complaint about that: ‘Oh, he/she
got it, and we didn’t.’ But that kind of jealousy only keeps up the
pace. (FIN3)
Those who oppose the competitive funding system are portrayed
as complainers who do not seem to understand reality. ‘People
are complaining; [there’s] too much competition. Why can’t I have
funding?’ (SWE3). Besides ‘keeping the wheels turning’, competition
separates the wheat from the cha and hence represents a rational
tool to ensure that the most qualified research gets funding;
otherwise, the distribution of funding would be arbitrary and
I find the competitive funding system good because then we do
not have lazy money in the sense that there would be money for
all the silly ideas. So in terms of quality assurance and in sifting
the ‘top’ from the rest, the competitive funding system is an
excellent way to allocate money. (FIN4)
According to this discourse, competition encourages scholars to
put forth more eort, which, in turn, leads to better research.
While funding represents scientific capital, it becomes evident
that not any kind of funding will do; some funding sources carry a
higher volume of scientific capital than others, as is evident in this
comment: ‘With my level of ambition, it is miserable that I do not
have an EU project. I should absolutely have an EU project’ (FIN10).
This reflects science policy’s push to apply for money from the
EU. The reference to ‘ambition’ implies that getting an EU grant
is associated with scholarly proficiency and, thereby, represents a
high volume of scientific capital.
The determined, competitive and eective orientation towards
research that is valued in this discourse becomes most apparent
with regard to PhD students. Those doctoral students who are
active and alert in adopting the prevailing assessment criteria are
seen as competent players. They are the kind ‘you do not have
to push and pull along’ (FIN1), and they are familiar with today’s
productivity demands:
PhD students should publish regularly. It is not enough [to
say] ‘okay; at the moment, I’m doing my thesis’. Instead, while
writing their theses, they should also make plans for the future
so that there won’t be any breaks in their research work. (FIN1)
I have PhD students who have created international networks
for themselves. That is very respectable. (FIN10)
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To succeed in the game, PhD students must be prepared to
construct their scientific careers determinedly and ambitiously
from the very early stages. They should write solely in English
and create international networks right from the beginning. The
target, then, is to ensure that the next generation is at ease in the
international arena, is internationally mobile and has built credible
international networks.
In sum, in drawing a distinction from actors who still operate with
the ‘old’ logic of the field of sociology, this discourse advocates
science policy ideals of excellence. It depicts them as revising and
upgrading the prior rules and logic. According to this discourse,
previously sociology did not strive to be at the forefront
internationally. Today, in contrast, prevailing science policy
incentives are transforming sociology into something more
upright, determined and ambitious. It is evident that international
activity in the form of international publishing, international
networks and international funding are desirable. These features
are critical if the actor is to be recognised as a competent player
in the field.
The Opposing Discourse
In this discourse, the current science policy incentives are expressed
as putting research quality under threat by interfering with the
practices of knowledge production in sociology. This discourse
grounds its vision of legitimate science in traditional academic
values associated with Humboldtian principles, which emphasise
extensive freedom in academic research. In this view, a university
should act as an alma mater, a collegial space for cultivating the
human mind and dedicating one’s time to deep reflection and
civilisation. Furthermore, the fruits of intellectual endeavours
should not be restricted to the academic sphere; they ought to
be distributed to an extra-scientific audience with enlightenment
shared with laypersons as well. Although concerns about science
policy ideals related to excellence are expressed in both datasets,
the Finnish and Swedish data dier in the space depicted as
existing in relation to these ideals.
The prevailing performance indicators for scientific publishing
are criticised greatly for prioritising international peer-reviewed
articles at the expense of books. Carrying a ‘personal, intellectual
style’ and exerting ‘a long-lasting influence’ (SWE4), books
represent a high volume of scientific capital in this discourse
while today’s performance indicators are likely to render books
‘an underrated form of publication’. To boost books’ symbolic
value, the opposing discourse draws a distinction between books
and articles wherein ‘writing a book is much more demanding
and is much more dicult than writing four articles’ (SWE2).
The strict structure of article format compels the scholar to
present studies in a simplified, less rich way, making them
‘boring’ and ‘foreseeable’ and rendering in-depth discussion of
the phenomena impossible.
Besides performance indicators favouring articles, the science
policy demands for productivity and eciency in publishing are
presented as having detrimental eects on the knowledge-
production practices of sociology. In the opposing discourse, this
‘quantitative spirit’ leads academics to strive merely to maximise
the number of articles they produce. That can lead to foul play and
unethical research practices, as evidenced for instance, in recycling
work or ‘slicing’ a research topic into smaller and smaller parts to
generate more articles:
You do one article. Then you change a heading and some
variables and do another article. In that way, you can produce
five or six articles. You can notice it in the doctoral students by
observing how narrow the area they are dealing with. This leads
to knowledge that is trivial. (FIN1)
Well, what we laughed about earlier, that ‘publish or perish’, I…
joke about it; nowadays there isn’t one single article where you
have more than one table, because if you have two tables, you
can make two articles of it. (SWE7)
According to this discourse, since an article is designed to deal
with a tiny and very specific part of a research phenomenon,
knowledge is depicted as becoming detached from the wider
historical and contextual background. The current system leads to
‘article-milling’ and tends to create a kind of ethos in which ‘it is
not important to understand the world and phenomena, but it is
important to have these articles published because otherwise you
don’t rank so high’ (SWE4). Accordingly, here it is only quantity that
matters, not thorough reflection and truth-seeking. Unlike the
supporting discourse, wherein eciency is depicted as enhancing
the quality of research, in this discourse an ostentatious emphasis
on productivity tends to de-intellectualise academia.
Since this discourse is focused on enlightening people, including
laymen and political decision-makers, the books that contribute to
the extra-scientific audiences possess a high volume of scientific
capital. Writing books in one’s native language is presented as
problematic, however, because of the strong science policy push
for international publishing:
There has been a downsizing of the importance of sociology
for a while. This demand comes very much from the political
sphere to publish in so-called international journals. And those
politicians, they never read those journals. This makes us more
and more uninteresting for national politics. It is mainly political
scientists and economists who are publicly relevant as regards to
political issues. (SWE5)
I think it is bad that we are not writing in Finnish. If we are
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
writing increasingly in English and less in Finnish, that will
increase alienation. The social sciences, however, are national
disciplines that have a national mission. They say that you may
treat research themes related to the Finnish context in the
international articles, but that is not true. And if we look at the
social discussions, it is the economists who dominate there, and
the influence of sociology is rather small. (FIN7)
Because the current reward system prioritises international
scientific peer-reviewed articles, communication with the political
decision-makers and a lay audience is rendered dicult. Through
this lack of communication, sociology is cast as losing its social
relevance. According to this discourse, sociologists once had great
influence on socio-political discussions, but now economists have
unseated them as the social experts. On one hand, there seems
to be some sort of ambivalence in science policy declarations;
while preaching the importance of the social impact of research,
science policy with its actual incentives puts strong emphasis on
international publishing. At the same time, the argument that
economics dominates current socio-political discussions brings
out the power dynamics among the various disciplines. It is argued
that the ruling governmental power favours economics since
knowledge from that domain meshes better into their political
agenda whereas ‘the social demand for sociological knowledge has
decreased’ (FIN6).
Science policy’s push for internationalisation, at least with regard
to publishing, is depicted as having gone too far, with writing in
English becoming an end in itself:
If you are writing in Swedish, it is not especially valued. But if
you write [the] same thing in English, it is [a] good international
publication. [laughs] (SWE3)
The common conception seems to be that everything written
in English for an international forum is inevitably considered
valuable and qualified, irrespective of how solid the research is
in reality; whereas research reported upon in Finnish/Swedish is
disregarded. According to the opposing discourse, the attitude
towards internationalisation is thus presented as naïve; science
policy overemphasises the value of internationalisation thereby
encouraging pretence and artifice in sociology.
With respect to the competition for funding, this discourse
presents the competitive funding system as reducing diversity in
science. The peer-review panels of the research-funding agencies
tend to be conservative in their funding decisions since they are not
willing to provide grants for research that go beyond the existing
trend. At the level of individual scholars, this means that it is more
lucrative for scholars to prove their expertise in a very narrow area
of research and specialise heavily rather than delve into whole
new research areas. It is stated that no space remains for ‘brave,
new openings or individuals who challenge the normative science’
(FIN8) or for ground-breaking research.
In general, this discourse presents the all-encompassing
competition as corrupting academic practices. To manage well in
the competitive research environment, everyone must concentrate
on his or her personal reputation-building and profit-seeking. The
competitive spirit calls for ‘calculation’ and ‘opportunism’. Scholars
begin to manoeuvre, picking peers with whom it seems worthwhile
to co-operate and determining which tasks are profitable to
engage in and which are not. Hence, increasing competition feeds
greedy and egoistic work practices, which act against Humboldtian
values of collegiality. This concern about competition and a
‘fistfight’ for positions and funding is expressed most visibly among
PhD students, since they are put under heavy pressure in relation
to competition. It is argued that PhD students ‘have very limited
freedom, and they must take up a very serious attitude towards
their work’ (FIN6). Because of the tight competition, present-day
doctoral students do not have space to conduct research carefully,
engage in profound enquiry or set ambitious targets such as
creating far-reaching knowledge for the ages:
When I was a new researcher thirty years ago, it was still
uncertain but I could say, ‘I write for the library. If my text has
any worth, the next generations will find it’. You can’t do that
if you are young today. You will have your first research project
but [you] won’t have anything else if you try to say something
like that. I think that the mature individual should have time and
resources for reflection. (SWE7)
Because of the performance indicators, the worst possible
idea at the moment is to create a sophisticated monograph in
Finnish about a topic that would be extremely important for the
development of Finnish society. If you want to build a career in
academia, do not write a sophisticated monograph in Finnish.
Do not dig into the topic profoundly. It would be a terrible
mistake. Instead, you must write three or four articles promptly
and publish them in esteemed journals that are classified in the
political system called Publication Forum. (FIN8)
To become mature, highly civilised intellectuals and to find new
paths of thinking, PhD students should go through a trial-and-
error process. This process would necessitate academic freedom in
terms of space and time to reflect on things at one’s leisure, but the
competitive research environment and productivity expectations
does not allow that.
In both datasets, this discourse displays anxiety surrounding
science policy and how it tends to alter the logic of the field of
sociology, but the Finnish and Swedish data dier in how much
leeway exists in relation to science policy instruments. In the
Finnish data, politically-loaded expressions such as ‘capitalism
comes and vandalises’ (FIN6) and ‘the tyranny of international
academic arbitrariness’ (FIN7) reflect anger and bitterness
toward the policy incentives. Instead of being an alma mater, the
university is described as a greedy employer that, in response to
strict profit targets, forces one to carry out research ‘half-arsed’
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
or ‘not so properly’, implying that sociology is under the yoke of
market forces:
When I was recruited for university, sociology was associated
with positive openness. There was more variety in what sociology
could be. That was then. Today, ‘caterpillar sociology’—a kind of
sociology that is extremely serious, very discipline-respectful,
and focused on internationality— rules. Of course, now I’m in a
position where I must participate in the decision making where
money is involved. Maybe therefore I see more severity and
rigidity in relation to what sociology ought to be. (FIN10)
Here, strictly-set profit targets erode diversity in sociological
thinking and thereby narrow the spectrum of legitimate sociology.
Extracts such as these suggest that there is nothing to be done
in the face of current regulations, since ‘money talks’, and the
current system does not really leave any space for the autonomous
functioning of sociology.
In the Swedish data, irrespective of the concerns expressed in
relation to science policy incentives, some space seems to remain
for acting in line with Humboldtian values. In the extreme form,
a department or a unit’s well-established position allows liberty
from current demands:
Being at this institution is a privilege. Of course, we have to
apply for research money, but we are not heavily dependent on
external money. We have an opportunity here to sit half a year
and just read and look into things and to understand things in
new ways. So if I want, I can sit here as I do right now and then
maybe publish two books at the same time almost. (SWE5)
A financially secure position enables some distance from the policy
instruments and provides an opportunity to do research ‘as usual’.
While the Swedish data do present the policy incentives as ‘in the
air’ and aecting one’s work in some sense, they show the actors
as successfully ignoring them:
We have a conference on how [the] changed university system
means changed sociology. It probably means a lot that it could
be good to bring up those points of criticism. A sort of neoliberal
kind of ranking, eective instrumental, non-intellectual. But I
feel I can be intellectual still. (SWE4)
In conclusion, the opposing discourse is based on a vision of legitimate
science that is rooted in traditional academic values. By blaming the
science policy incentives for reducing research quality in sociology,
the opposing discourse takes a stance completely antithetical to
the supporting one. The prevailing performance indicators are
depicted as decreasing the symbolic value of those properties (such
as book writing, deep reflection and devotion to research) that
aord conducting legitimate science and accord value instead to
properties such as producing scientific journal articles, which are
inadequate for meeting the criteria for real quality. Furthermore,
this discourse depicts current science policy aims to boost eciency
and productivity as feeding unethical practices.
The Complying Discourse
The final discourse supports traditional academic values, as
manifested in the opposing discourse, but it also acknowledges that
one who wishes to keep up in the game must adjust to the science
policy ideals. Thus, this discourse articulates a balance between
the other two. In essence, the complying discourse expresses the
view that, since most scholars are following the new rules of the
game, opposition to those rules would mean academic suicide and
exclusion from the field. To be recognised as a competent player,
one must learn to play by the prevailing rules, even if those rules
are not always consistent with one’s personal vision of legitimate
science. The complying discourse is manifested rather similarly
in the two national contexts, but some dierences between the
Finnish and Swedish versions are evident in terms of the degree of
manoeuvring room in upholding the rules of the game.
The change in the publication practices of sociology, the shift from
writing books to writing articles as the most favourable format, is
referred to in a rather neutral manner:
Since these indicators for quality and productivity give preference
to international publications, I have focused on writing them. If
there weren’t that kind of steering, I would publish more in Finnish.
Then again, it would be stupid to assume…[that] since people are
substantially reading books and articles in English, why wouldn’t
they participate in the discussions that they draw from? (FIN2)
When I wrote my PhD degree, not many of my elderly colleagues
were publishing in English. They wrote monographs. All of my
fellow PhD students also wrote monographs. This has been a
dramatic change in favour of writing a compilation of articles.
You are expected to publish in English since the university counts
publications. So we need to publish internationally, and sociology
is indeed an international subject. (SWE3)
These expressions imply that a book written in the native language
is still seen as a potentially viable publishing format. Hence, in
contrast both to the supporting discourse, which paints scientific
capital as displayed solely through articles, and to the opposing
discourse, in which books hold high symbolic value, this discourse
values articles and books alike. However, writing international peer-
reviewed articles in English is a ‘rational’ thing to do, since ‘everyone’
is writing them. This implies that the recognised symbolic value of
articles is higher than that of books and that they possess a higher
volume of scientific capital than books. Under the prevailing rules
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
of the game, being recognised as a competent player demands that
one must focus on writing international peer-reviewed articles
rather than books.
As for the science policy push for internationalisation, this discourse
depicts internationalisation as something that has always been part
of the research work:
International publishing is emphasised. On the other hand, I have
always published internationally even before these changes.
The research work as such has not changed. For instance, the
international projects I’ve been involved in, started before these
reforms. (FIN9)
According to this discourse, scholars have always participated in
international conferences, carried out international projects, and
published in international forums, so nothing new is wrought by
science policy incentives that promote internationalisation. Instead,
the complying discourse seems to present a sense of continuity in
terms of internationalisation.
The competition for funding is regarded as a thing that ‘has to be
done’ to ensure sucient financial resources even if that competition
may be burdensome:
We as the majority are engaging in this system. We just must
engage in it so that we can get money for the PhD students,
that we will keep up in internationalisation and that we can be
part of this and that. We have put ourselves on this treadmill. If
one opts out of the competition, one simultaneously opts out of
many other things too. (FIN4)
No, I don’t think that we have any counter-strategies. Conversely,
the strategy is that you must be active, you must apply for money.
We are [an] old, traditional university. We must keep the pace.
I think it would be very unwise to have some kind of protest
strategy because that would be kind of [an] isolated, marginal
thing to do. (SWE3)
Refusal to engage in the competition would be risky, even irrational,
since those in opposition may be discriminated against and eventually
excluded from the field. Accordingly, the complying discourse
articulates that actors who wish to ensure their legitimate position in
the field must participate in the competition for funding as ‘everyone
is participating in it’ (SWE3). Success in the competition for funding
is essential for earning recognition among peers. Thus, funding is
assigned a high volume of scientific capital. Failing to secure funding
would mean that ‘you end up being a loser’ (SWE1). That said, the
intensified competition for funding does not mean that scholars
should adopt ready-made research problems set by the funders or
abandon their personal research interests for the sake of funding:
Before, I tried to adjust to whatever I thought that the research
foundation was funding. But I wasn’t successful. I just came to
a point where I thought ‘I’m going to do what I really want to
do’. I decided to learn the skill of writing funding applications
in [such a] way that it links up with policy and whatever. So I
wouldn’t say that I have done certain kind of research only to
attract funding. (SWE2)
I have somewhat tuned the applications, but I haven’t engaged
in anything that I would not find interesting simply to get
money. (FIN8)
Mastery of writing funding applications consists of knowing and
using the right words, that is, the vocabulary used by the funding
bodies for appealing to them eectively while still representing
one’s own, unique research interests in the application. The art of
grant writing enables a scholar to gain material resources while
simultaneously staying loyal to traditional academic principles
such as practising curiosity-driven research and thereby gaining
prestige in the field.
As for PhD students, in the complying discourse, they must
‘construct their career more consciously in terms of international
merits’ (FIN10) than previous generations did. This, however, is
denoted concisely by stating that times have changed and the
rules of the game have altered:
I am a professor, so I don’t have to fight for new positions anymore
and care about the new rules, but the younger colleagues have
to be more conformant to the NPM rules. (SWE10)
The terms of the competition have changed. I wrote my thesis in
Finnish. It was rational then and politically important. But now I
do not recommend writing the thesis in Finnish to anyone. If you
want to stay in academia, you must write international peer-
reviewed articles. (FIN10)
Since this is the name of the game, PhD students must be prepared
for the new rules—whether those rules are good or not. Writing an
article-based doctoral dissertation in English is a must if one wants
to build a career in academia. It would be ‘unwise’ and irresponsible
to direct a PhD student to do otherwise.
Although the complying discourse is very much the same across the
Finnish and Swedish data, there are slight dierences in the range
admitted for compliance and in the extent to which the changes
in science policy are characterised as having altered the rules of
the field. This is most apparent in the context of publishing. In the
Finnish data, the expressions imply that the conditions of today’s
competition are fundamentally changing the scientific practices in
The superficial spirit of the present-day university shows in such
a way that the scholar who cobbles together a paper on the stu
that is in the air and is productive is the one who succeeds. That is
not what we really value here, but that is what is rewarded. (FIN10)
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
Of course, the current evaluation criteria have an eect. Because
of them, I deal with much smaller pieces of themes than [I did]
ten years ago. Before, I did not pay any attention to the language
of publications, but now I have been trying to write in both
Finnish and English. And the prevailing market-like ideology…of
course has an eect on everyone’s life—whether you want it to
or not. (FIN7)
These quotations specify that in-depth reflection and writing
in the native language would still be valued were it not for the
harsh reality of the current system, which makes the actors adopt
those scientific practices that are required. Thus, this discourse
acknowledges that the current rules are here to stay, and they
simply have to be accepted if one wants to be part of the game.
In the Swedish version, although the science policy incentives
are seen just as clearly as exerting eects on the knowledge-
production practices of sociology, the complying discourse seems
to delineate some space and looseness in terms of the existing
evaluation criteria:
In between, there are lot of papers and they I cannot care less.
They are like ideas going out in various directions. But the book
is the main thing. That’s the kind of result, the ‘amen’. The rest
is there to feed into that. (SWE6)
It seems like you are supposed to publish in peer-reviewed
journals with the big impact. But I’ve been doing that to some
extent anyway, so I don’t care about it very much. Now I’m
working on two books and I have [a] third one coming out in
two months. (SWE10)
The articles are defined as a necessary evil that must be endured
if one is to reach the main target, which is writing a book. The
greatest dierence here is that, besides books still seeming to
possess a high volume of scientific capital in the Swedish data,
there appears to be more space to choose between publishing
books and articles than in the Finnish setting.
The complying discourse can be summarised as taking a rather
pragmatic stance on the science policy incentives, regarding them
as a factor to which one must adapt. Though it reproduces the
view that participating in the game necessitates accepting the new
rules, it does not reject the field’s ‘old’ logic. In a way, this discourse
serves as an articulation of common sense, a balance between the
other, conflicting discourses. While not completely enraptured
with the science policy ideals, as the supporting discourse is, it
recognises a compulsion to comply with them.
This study set out to explore how the ideals of science policy related
to excellence are made sense of among the scientific elite in the field
of sociology in Finland and in Sweden. The three discursive strategies
found in this study are very much in line with the previous studies
in which the current science policy regime is either supported,
resisted or complied with (Santiago and Carvalho 2012; Ylijoki 2014).
This study, however, shows the existence of these dierent stances
within one discipline, even within this limited group of eminent
professors, and makes the conflicting and tensional relations
between these discursive strategies visible. The most conspicuous
was the juxtaposition of the supporting discourse and the opposing
discourse. For the supporting discourse, science that meets today’s
international standards and is internationally competitive is
legitimate. While this discourse assigns a high volume of scientific
capital to such elements as top-tier articles, global networks and EU
grants, through distinctions, it aims at showing the lack of ambition
and quality within the ‘old’ rules of the game manifested in the
opposing discourse. In contrast, the opposing discourse proceeds
from a vision of legitimate science as aligned with traditional
academic values. Scientific capital is accorded to books written in
one’s native language, on enlightenment of the wider public and
on deep devotion to one’s research work, whereas a distinction
is drawn from scientific practices and orientation valued in the
supporting discourse by deeming them unintellectual and depraved.
Finally, the complying discourse strikes a balance between the
two by upholding traditional academic values and simultaneously
providing a pragmatic stance towards external demands.
As for the dynamics between the inner scientific struggles of
sociology and science policy, the supporting discourse and the
complying discourse, while adopting the current excellence
rhetoric, are playing the game in a way that goes along with
the demands of science policy. Certainly, it could be argued that
professors, within their position of being in charge of accumulating
financial resources for their research units, do not have any other
option than to follow the current rules. Conversely, the resistance
raised by the opposing discourse could be interpreted as an attempt
to conserve the old order, that is, the values and distribution of
capital that has ensured the professors’ dominant position in the
field (Bourdieu 1999). According to Hammarfelt and de Rijcke
(2015), current evaluation standards have been beneficial for the
less powerful actors in the field since, due to the international
peer-reviewed evaluation system, these actors are less dependent
on the national elite who have previously controlled the national
reward systems. From this standpoint, the opposition could be
seen to embody the nostalgic yearning of the ‘good old times’ when
the professors enjoyed rather sovereign status in the field, which is
now challenged by external demands (Ylijoki 2005). On the other
hand, the resistance expressed by the well-established professors
may as well convey that while holding a dominant position, they
NJSTS vol 7 issue 1 2019
have more leeway in terms of the prevailing rules than scholars
in subordinate positions (e.g., early-career researchers or scholars
with teaching positions). In that sense, the internal dynamic of
sociology could have been rather dierent if the data being used
had also included other ranks.
When contrasting the internal dynamics of sociology in these two
national contexts in more detail, the complying discourse was
dominant in both countries. It also became evident that the opposing
and compiling expressions frequently occurred simultaneously.
Thus, it can be argued that while articulating the current science
policy regime, neither Finnish nor Swedish sociology scholars can
completely ignore the prevailing rules, and participation in the game
requires at least some kind of adoption of the excellence incentives.
However, striking national dierences were observed. In the
Swedish data, the opposing expressions had a stronger presence
than in Finland where compliance penetrated the entire data set.
The most conspicuous finding was, however, that in the Finnish
data, the supporting discourse was robust, whereas the Swedish
data displayed almost no signs of the supporting discourse. The
insignificance of the supporting discourse and the strong foothold
given for the traditional academic values in the Swedish data
may evince the well-established stratification of the Swedish HE
system. Hallonsten and Holmberg (2013) state that irrespective of
the extensive restructuring of academia, classic academic norms
and ideals have remained strong in Sweden, namely because of the
dominance of the old universities. According to Pinheiro et al. (2014)
as well, in Sweden, not only are academic freedom and collegiality
constantly discussed, they are also fiercely protected by the old
universities. By contrast, in Finland, there are hardly any status
hierarchies between the universities, and the universities are rather
equalitarian (Kivistö and Tirronen 2012). However, in Finland, the
shift towards NPM practices has been more pronounced (Pinheiro et
al. 2014). Despite the increase in the procedural autonomy of Finnish
universities, this has not led to a reduction in state control regarding
substantive autonomy (Pinheiro et al. 2014); in fact, the reforms
have been strongly state-led and politically steered (Pelkonen
and Teräväinen-Litardo 2013). Furthermore, the national funding
allocation model that penetrates institutional and departmental
levels, makes the Finnish system highly competitive (Auranen
and Nieminen 2010). Hence, the findings of this study imply that
regardless of the seemingly similar reforms, due to the dierences
in governance models and national university traditions, there
seem to be national dierences in how much power and autonomy
the scientific elite in sociology have, and consequently, how much
power they possess to express resistance or to distance themselves
from the excellence objectives. As Naidoo (2004) points out, the
elite research-intensive institutions, holding a dominant position
in the HE system, have a better position from which to resist the
pressures of the science policy. In the light of this study, it seems
that the scientific elite of sociology in Sweden ‘can aord’ to sustain
a certain kind of distance towards the science policy incentives and
thus, possess more autonomy than its Finnish counterpart.
Despite the dierences, the common feature in the Finnish and
Swedish data is that the PhD students are said to be strongly
aected by the excellence rhetoric. As in previous studies (Fochler
et al. 2016; Müller and de Rijcke 2017), which showed that the
performance metrics have narrowed the assessment criteria of
junior researchers, a narrowing seemed visible in this data. Müller
and de Rijcke (2017) argue that, in the context of performance
indicators, the societal or community relevance of research
in valuing academic work is becoming harder to maintain or
introduce. If one of sociology’s missions has been engagement in
democratic and humanist endeavours by distributing emancipatory
knowledge to wider audiences (Hokka 2018; Burawoy 2004),
how shall the next generation, who are expected to publish in
top-tier scientific journals and to communicate solely with the
international scientific community, uphold this calling? In light
of these concerns, a worthy goal for future research would be to
examine further how junior academics experience the excellence
ideals. Overall, as this study focused on capturing the sense-
making of the scientific elite, it would be important to examine
how other ranks, for instance scholars in teaching positions, make
sense of the excellence objectives.
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In this paper we investigate how a publication indicator developed for the performance-based research funding system (PRFS) in Finland takes national language publications into account. Our analysis is based on 47423 peer-reviewed SSH outputs from 14 Finnish universities published in 2011-2016. SSH research community in Finland is increasingly concerned about the national language publishing. Incentives for English language journal publishing are attributed to the PRFS for allocating block grant annually to universities. In the Norwegian model adopted also in Finland, the weight of outputs in the funding-scheme is dependent on the quality index of publication channels. Our analysis shows that the rating of publication channels results in a fairly balanced representation of Finnish, Swedish and English language journal articles in the PRFS. The system is more favorable to English than Finnish and Swedish language book publications. Publications in other languages, however, are under-represented in the PRFS. The number of journal articles in Finnish has remained relatively stable. The number of Finnish book publications, however, is declining in both low and high rated outlets. We speculate that in addition to the PRFS, publishing patterns are influenced by increased international competition for positions and project funding, as well as other factors than research evaluation.
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