The Network for Science Management (Netzwerk Wissenschaftsmanagement) invited us to participate in their annual meeting which took place in Munich last week. The network aims to support the professionalization of administration through regular exchange of ideas and experiences and has, thus, a strong practical focus. Together with Isabel Welpe, Jutta Wollersheim, and Stefanie Ringelhan from the Chair of Strategy and Organization at TU Munich, I was invited to talk about the governance of academic cooperation from a scholarly standpoint.
The research group from Munich held an impressive talk about quantitative assessments of research productivity and possible performance paradoxes, the differing intensity of collaboration between PhD students of economics and among PhD students of management, and the possibilities of new forms of collaboration (e.g. crowd research), publication (e.g. open peer review and open access) and scholarly communication (e.g. web 2.0 applications). If I might say so, their research looks very interesting and especially their new ventures promise relevant insights.
After their talk, I presented the results of two studies which are currently under review for publication (fingers crossed). The studies approach the emerging actorhood of universities from a governance- and a resource-perspective. As already reported earlier, governance reforms in the early 2000s have strenthened managerial mechanisms and delegated decision-competencies to the upper echelons of universities, the president, vice-presidents, and chancellors. So we asked ourselves, whether the composition of this “top management team” has any influence on how successful the university is in acquiring competitive funding for large collaborative projects? The results suggest that socio-demographic diversity of decision-makers has positive effects on performance in that regard. The second study investigates the increasing professionalization of administration in specialized central support units. Results indicate that performance is not always enhanced by these developments. In some cases, voluntary collective action seems to be more important than support from such units. However, we’re currently gathering additional data and running further tests on our models, so the final results may be more rubust and provide further clarity.
There was broad consensus about the implications of the first study. Some were reminded of Niklas Luhmann who stated that complexity can only be reduced by complexity – a nice thought, indeed. The results of the second study were, not surprisingly, seen a little bit more controversial. I’m grateful for this opportunity to discuss our research with practitioners in the field (many thanks to Dr. Brauns from the Thuringian Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture).