Academic identity at the intersection of global scientific communities and national science policies: societal impact in the UK and Netherlands

Corina Balaban*, Stefan de Jong

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This article investigates attitudes to societal impact of research as an entry point into understanding academic identities. Conceptually, we position academic identity at the intersection of global scientific fields and national science policies. We argue that the degree of alignment or misalignment between the two can create coherent academic identities, or on the contrary, tensions in academics’ identity. Empirically, we use the disciplines of philosophy and anthropology as proxies for scientific fields in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). The study is based on sixteen semi-structured interviews with mid-career philosophers and anthropologists in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and an analysis of how societal impact is positioned in the two national evaluation systems. We conclude that ‘coercive’ national impact policies (like the one in the UK) are less likely to be aligned with global disciplinary norms in the SSH and therefore create tensions in academic identity; these can undermine academics’ agency and be counterproductive in terms of reaching policy objectives. By contrast, ‘enabling’ national impact policies (like the one in the Netherlands) are conducive to more coherent academic identities that are better aligned with disciplinary notions of societal impact. By discussing academic identities in a comparative context, the study highlights the struggles of reconciling disciplinary and national notions of societal impact. To realise the potential societal impact of academic research, we recommend that impact is integrated into a wider ecosystem of interactions where policy-driven notions are aligned with disciplinary norms and values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-962
Number of pages22
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Volume48
Issue number6
Early online date3 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Society for Research into Higher Education.

Research programs

  • ESSB PA

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