Obviously excellent? Evidence Practices in the Preparation of Scientific Research and Biographies for Applications for ERC Starting and Consolidator Grants

In the contemporary scientific system, high scientific quality – often framed as excellence – has become both a key goal of scientific and political activities and the center of many controversies. Grant applicants and grant application reviewers alike need to face up to the challenge of how to present and demonstrate the quality of their research ideas and scientific biographies. How can excellence be defined, measured, compared and made evident?
Sub-project TP8 of the Research Unit’s Phase 2 focuses on the evidence practices scientists engage in when they prepare applications for the ERC. TP8 is exploring the practices of researchers as they attempt to generate evidence for the excellence of their proposals and CVs for review at the ERC. What are the epistemic, normative and institutional implications of these practices? The project will answer these questions by means of qualitative social science inquiry. We are conducting interviews with researchers and with the university personnel who aim to support their application processes, as well as by analyzing application and review documents.

Building on the 2017 to 2020 successes of DFG Research Unit 2448, we are also talking to reviewers for the ERC to understand which norms and values guide their evidence practices and decision-making processes. This work, originally part of associated project AP2 of Phase 1, is continuing with an ongoing investigation of how reviewers describe their practices of evaluating proposals and CVs, and how excellence is defined in ERC review process.
We are conducting this analysis against the backdrop of broader dynamics and transformations in contemporary science that lead to processes which de- and restabilize notions of scientific quality – processes for which the creation of the ERC itself is indicative. Given the central role that scientific knowledge plays in evidence practices in a range of social arenas, we believe in the importance of a reflexive analysis of evidence practices in science, which crucially regulate the distribution of resources and academic esteem.


Dr. Ruth Müller and Dr. Mallory James
Mail: Mallory.james@tum.de
TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology, Department of Science, Technology and Society (STS), Augustenstraße 46, 80333 München, Germany
Raum: 350

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Sascha Dickel, Prof. Dr. Karin Zachmann, Dr. Olga Sparschuh


DFG – Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft