Accepted Paper:

Valuating Academic Worth  


Anne Slootweg (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses how practices of evaluation in Dutch law schools perform ‘academic quality’ and mediate research practices. Based on interviews with researchers and administrators and observations of evaluation practices, this paper contributes to the study of the social lives of indicators.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses how practices of evaluating academic work in Dutch law schools contribute to the constitution of notions of 'academic quality', 'public relevance' and 'the excellent researcher'. Since the 1980s, quantitative performance measures have become ubiquitous, including in academia. Various formats of measuring the performance of individuals, groups and institutions, have evolved as disciplinary techniques of government, contributing to the constitution of 'kinds of academics' and mediating research practices. Paradoxically, researchers are, forcibly and ambiguously, implicated in the manifestation of the evaluation machinery themselves. While the use of quantitative indicators to assess academic worth is widely critiqued for relying on artificial proxies and generating perverse effects, simultaneously universities, faculties and researchers contribute to their legitimacy by maintaining an interest in high scores, by using results for management, policy and communication and by participating in the adaptation of evaluation practices and performance management systems. Taking into account that practices of evaluation are both an effect and constitutive of a normative logic of worth, which is contested, diverges between and within research fields and requires a continuous work of enacting 'agreements', hermeneutically as well as materially, the central question this paper addresses is how this state of agreement is reached in practice. Based on interviews with researchers and administrators in Dutch law schools, as well as observations of the production of specific formats and bibliometric indicators used in research assessments, this paper will contribute to a further investigation of the material and social lives of indicators in evaluation regimes.

Panel T020
Governing Excellent Science