Accepted Paper:

Funding excellent science: implications for Dutch research practices  


Wout Scholten (Rathenau Institute)
Laurens Hessels (KWR Water)
Leonie van Drooge (Rathenau Institute)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to gain insights into the possible implications of excellence policies on the degree of differentiation in a science system and the effects of these policies on research practices and epistemic content. To this end, we analyze Dutch funding data and interviews with 16 Dutch research groups.

Paper long abstract:

Many science systems witness the rise of excellence policies, funding instruments that selectively support high-performing and high-potential individuals or organizations, in order to increase differentiation.

Scholars have expressed a number of concerns arguing that excellence policies may create a system where the 'winner takes all', that the focus on competition may hinder cooperation, or that the quality of education and broader impact recede into the background.

To date, the systematic understanding of the effects of excellence policies on scientific practices is limited. The aim of this paper is to fill this knowledge gap by analyzing the interplay between excellence funding and academic research practices in The Netherlands.

To this end we undertake three empirical endeavors. First, we analyze the patterns of excellence funding; to what degree can we observe a concentration of funding at a limited number of individuals, research groups or research areas? Second, we report on case studies of four research groups that benefit strongly from excellence funding; we show how the multiple values of excellence funding for these research groups amplifies the Matthew effect. Third, we compare the research practices of groups benefiting from excellence funding with the research practices of twelve groups not benefiting from excellence funding; do these groups construct alternative notions of excellence?

By synthesizing various types of empirical data we gain insight into the implications of excellence policies on the degree of differentiation and their effects on academic research practices and epistemic content.

Panel T020
Governing Excellent Science