Accepted paper:

"Within the frames that were laid out": 'independent' doctoral research in the projectified humanities


Alexandra Supper (Maastricht University)

Paper short abstract:

Projectification puts tension on the conception of doctoral research in the humanities as a solitary transition from student to researcher. By analysing the Dutch 'Vidi' funding scheme, I trace tensions in the discourse of academic identity and 'independence' in collaborative research projects.

Paper long abstract:

The process of doctoral work can be understood as one of identity-construction; more than just an extended study of a particular topic, it also marks a gradual transition from feeling like a student to feeling like an academic. In higher education research, this transition is understood to play out differently in different academic fields; whereas natural science research is regarded as being more communal, doctoral researchers in the humanities are usually expected to develop their topics (and concomitant identity) in isolation and on their own (e.g. Parry, 2007). However, the increasing reliance on collaborative research projects - 'projectification' - in the humanities puts strain on the conception of doctoral research as a solitary affair. In this presentation, I will explore this tension in relation to one specific funding scheme: the 'Vidi' of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This scheme is particularly relevant because of its paradoxical nature: conceived as an 'individual' grant for mid-career academics, successful applicants are cast in the role of principal investigator in a collaborative project, usually including one or two doctoral researchers, who are expected to deliver dissertations which demonstrate their ability to conduct research independently. I will explore traces of this tension, and associated discourses of academic identity and 'independence', through an analysis of the funding instrument and doctoral regulations of Dutch universities, as well as of selected dissertations in the disciplines of history and philosophy, written in the context of Vidi projects funded between 2006 and 2010.

panel F03
Scientists - agents under construction