Philosophy Colloquium 

October 12, 2018

3:00pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110 (Basement)

Thomas Franssen

Understanding the Epistemic Effects of Research Governance:  A Sociological Approach  


Abstract: Over the past decades, science funding in European public science systems shows a shift from recurrent block funding towards project funding mechanisms. This shift takes place against the background of an economization of the public sphere and of a rise of audit processes in a wide variety of sectors, including higher education and research. Project funding mechanisms allows research governance actors to intervene in the distribution of funding steering what types of research are funded. But how can we understand the epistemic effects of such shifts in research governance?

Understanding these epistemic effects necessitates bringing together two literatures. On the one hand, studies of research governance currently focus on changes in authority relations, resource distribution, and evaluation standards and practices. They allow for a detailed understanding of the workings of the public science system. Such studies, however, rarely take into account the epistemic effects of research governance. At the same time, scholars who study the epistemic dimension of research analyse historically, philosophically or sociologically the research content and practices of researchers. Their work offers a detailed understanding of the social, epistemic or organizational structure of particular research traditions.  However, the role of research governance, especially in studies on the epistemic properties of research, is never a central analytical focus. Moreover, in both literatures there is a strong bias towards the natural sciences, neglecting the social sciences and humanities and so making a comprehensive understanding impossible.

I aim to bring these two fields of study together, as well as take into account differences between disciplines, in order to understand the epistemic effects of changes in research governance. In this talk I will outline the main analytical questions that emerge in doing so. I will argue for a sociological and empirical approach that would comparatively study the epistemic properties of research in different disciplines. Drawing on a study of the different affordances and effects of prize funding versus project funding, I will illustrate how such an approach might look in practice. Moreover, I will ask to what extent it is possible, and desirable, to integrate insights from philosophy of science into this analytical framework to solve some of its current challenges.


All are welcome to attend!


Questions? Contact Andrew Spear:



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