Filling in the gaps. The politics of interpreting academic CVs in evaluative situations
Sarah de Rijcke (Leiden University)
Ruth Müller (Technical University of Munich)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on a set of 25 interviews with applicants and referees in a prestigious German fellowship program, this paper presents an analysis of how researchers understand, cultivate and negotiate the interpretive conventions that underpin the assessment of academic CVs in evaluative situations.
Paper long abstract:
Academic CVs play an important but understudied role in many kinds of academic evaluation processes, ranging from peer review for grant and fellowship programs to institutional appointment procedures. The globalization of academic labor markets and the increasing dependence of scientists on grants and other forms of external funding would even suggest that the significance of CVs as an object of evaluation is increasing. The aim of this paper is to analyze how researchers cultivate, understand and negotiate the interpretive conventions that underpin the assessment of CVs in evaluative situations. CVs are often seen as very matter-of-factly documents (in contrast, for example, to literary biographies of scientists). We argue, however, that the elliptic lists of achievements and career steps presented in academic CVs do not speak for themselves, but instead require significant interpretive effort. A key aspect of this normally invisible interpretive work is contextualization. Thus, when assessing CVs, researchers qualify achievements (or lack thereof) by viewing them against selectively mobilized interpretive backgrounds, such as disciplinary research cultures, biographical factors, or the broader infrastructural conditions of particular national science systems. In this proactive interpretive process, researchers establish, reproduce or contest what counts as legitimate ways of presenting and reading CVs for assessment purposes, and thus engage in a crucial form of knowledge politics. Empirically, our analysis draws on a set of 25 interviews with applicants and referees in a prestigious institutional fellowship program in Germany.
Scientists - agents under construction