May 19, 2024

30 years of college competition: The desire for a different assessment culture

Thirty years ago, the desire to “break out of the self-crippling committee economy” was expressed in German universities. The solution, as Niklas Luhmann called it, must be “new public management” – that is, research and provision of funds as well as results that must be recorded and evaluated.

In terms of financing, state funding declined significantly, and instead the focus was on central funding organizations. Since then, “impact” has been used primarily to evaluate scientific achievements. This says something about how much researchers publish and how often they are cited, but it says nothing really about translation: impact, i.e. knowledge acquisition and actual reception.

Extensive research funding applications take significant time

The essence of the approach developed at that time is that researchers have spent a lot of time since then writing large-scale research funding applications. A large percentage of them are then rejected – up to eighty percent depending on the subject.

But scientists can't do without this either, because third-party funding is not only the basic financial requirement for research, but also crucial when it comes to recruitment. The more funding, the greater the chances of getting the job. Especially if high-impact values ​​and long publishing lists can also be demonstrated.

However, this led to writing short research papers rather than books. Media scholar Bernhard Borksen describes it to FAZ as follows: “Topics are broken down into the smallest possible publishable units, while reflective presentation of larger cultural, historical or philosophical contexts loses relevance in the academic world.”

Current review systems tend to hinder science

“The system of mutual review, which is supposed to reward scientific excellence, does not always lead to an increase in innovation, but rather often to a reduction,” said literary scholar Albrecht Koshorki twenty years ago. However, not much has changed yet. This means that young scientists, in particular, who need to secure their careers, face a dilemma.

Political scientist Christian Falk also emphasized that for “research and teaching” he would like to see “a different, more self-critical culture of evaluation.” Additionally, according to the FAZ article, academic freedom and freedom of expression only apply to some researchers so as not to overstep the bounds of the scope of their opinions. The supposed battle against discrimination is often used as a reason to exclude undesirable positions from scientific discourse.

In addition, given the prevailing new public management approaches, it is quite possible that the political agenda, for example of someone with an expert role on finance committees, could lead to oversight. Although it is difficult to empirically prove these indirect effects on academic freedom and precisely determine their extent. However, it is not surprising that the desire for a different review culture has become higher, one that respects the actual impact of research rather than getting bogged down in the constant bureaucratic evaluation of research applications.