Tag Archives: control mechanisms

Survey launched: An inquiry into the peer-review system of academic journals

Peer reviewing is a widespread procedure for evaluating the quality of scholarly manuscripts before publication. As such, it is at the heart of academia. Yet, little is known how scholars percieve the peer-review process.

Today, we initiated our survey into the peer-review system from the perspective of those who submit papers to academic journals. The survey asks questions about general attitudes towards your job, your personal experiences with peer reviews, and possible alternatives to the common pre-publication peer review process. We’ll keep you posted on the results!

“A conceptualization of scholarly performance in university hospitals and its impact on a pluralistic environment” – First Insights

After finishing the first interviews for our Project  “A conceptualization of scholarly performance in university hospitals and its impact on a pluralistic environment” it’s time to offer a brief glance at this project.

In the context of the increased importance of performance measurement in academia we focus on how scholarly performance and impact are constituted. We understand scholarly performance as a relativistic construct that is shaped by different demands placed on certain scholarly activities. Accordingly it can be assessed on different stages: Besides the understanding of scholarly performance and its impact that is shaped through current performance measurement methods stands scholars’ subjective understanding of their performance and its impact.

Higher education institutions where scholarly performance is embedded in a very complex environment are university hospitals. Scholars that are employed in a university hospital have to combine research and teaching activities with clinical activities. In addition they have to cope with demands of multiple stakeholders, like third party funders, ethical committees or their own professions. Due to this complexity the components of scholarly performance in university hospitals and the demands placed at these components are highly diverse.

We analyze how the understanding of scholarly performance and impact in university hospitals is constituted by and related to the current forms of performance measurement and the pluralistic demands that stakeholders place at scholarly activities. For this purpose we are currently conducting semi-structured interviews with scholars that are employed at a university hospital. We assess medical scholar’s subjective understanding of performance and its impact as well as the valuation-driven understanding that is shaped by the demands that current performance measurement methods place at scholarly activities.  Central research questions are: How do perceived demands of multiple stakeholders and areas of activity shape the understanding of academic impact and its performance? Do demands of certain stakeholders become suppressed through an economic legitimization of activities? How do scholars cope with certain performance measurement instruments?

Our first interviews suggest interesting insights into unintended effects of performance measurement in academia. We`ll keep you updated!

In Search of Order in Germany's Public Higher Education Discourse

Last Friday, I presented some preliminary research in a seminar on “sociological discourse analysis” at Hamburg Graduate School. The research question we are examining by using a discourse-analytic method (e.g. Foucault 1973) came up when we scanned newspapers for articles about the recent development in Germany’s higher education sector.

Some participants in the discourse strongly welcome measurements and rankings as a form of ‘objective’ output control, while other actors dismiss these methods and prefer peer control mechanisms by the academic society (see this article in ‘Die Zeit’, for example). Some arguments against the latest reforms in university governance seem to promote the control mechanisms used in the ‘Ordinarien’ university, which was abolished after student protests in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

So we wondered, what organizing principles constitute the idealtypic ‘Ordinarien-‘,  ‘Gruppen-‘ and ‘Unternehmerische Universität’, based on management and organization literature (e.g. Mintzberg 1980, Ahrne & Brunsson 2011)? When we got an answer to this question, we hope to clarify who is demanding what in the public discourse, which consequences the proposed or dismissed forms of organizing might have, and finally shed some (theory framed) light into an ideological framed discussion.

  • Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (2011). Organization outside organizations: the significance of partial organization. Organization, 18(1), 83‐104.
  • Foucault, M. (1973): Die Archäologie des Wissens. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp Verlag.
  • Mintzberg, H. (1980). Structure in 5’s: A Synthesis of the Research on Organization Design. Management Science, 26(3), 322–341.