Evidence for Excellence (TUM Gender & Diversity Incentive Fund; MCTS Lab Engineering Responsibility)

Project Team: Prof. Dr. Ruth Müller (PI), Kay Felder

Academic excellence has become a key notion within science policy discourses in recent years. Many profound reforms in the European academic research landscape have been argued as necessary in order to improve the scientific excellence of different research systems. At the same time, the concrete meaning of the term “excellence” often remains opaque and only becomes tangible in the situated contexts of its use. In this project, we investigate how the notion of excellence is operationalized at an important site of academic evaluation and selection, that is in European funding programs for early- and mid-career researchers. The project takes an actor-centered approach and uses reflexive peer-to-peer interviews to explore the reviewers’ perceptions and understandings of scientific excellence in different research funding contexts.To this end, the project draws on concepts and methods from both Science & Technology Studies (MCTS) and Valuation Studies, which understand notions of value and worth as products of complex social processes and negotiations, not as prefigured categories that can readily be applied in a social situation. Consequently, we understand peer reviewers as actors that make complex decisions about the value of research and researchers against the backdrop of an ever-changing scientific system within which they have to navigate potentially conflicting ideas about what counts as excellent science. Through its exploration of reviewers’ perceptions of excellence, the project aims to contribute to an empirically grounded discussion in science and in science policy about the norms, values, and potential tensions that characterize evaluation processes for research funding in the context of an increasingly competitive research system.

The project is supported by the MCTS Lab Engineering Responsibility and the TUM Gender & Diversity Incentive Fund. Furthermore, the project is associated with the DFG research group 2448 “Practicing Evidence – Evidencing Practice”.

Project leader(s):
Prof. Dr. Ruth Müller


Project type:

Funding institution:
MCTS Labor Engineering Responsibility, TUM Gender & Diversity Incentive Fund