199.3 Changing academic grant writing practices (1955-2005)

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 9:28 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Kathia SERRANO-VELARDE , Max Weber Institute of Sociology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
The paper addresses the question of how academic grant writing practices have changed over time. As public investment in research has stagnated, it has become necessary for academics to seek alternative funding sources for their research. Consequently, external funding has gained importance in the academic world, affecting both individuals and research organizations. Although existing scholarship offers a critical understanding of the working mechanisms of funding schemes and of their attendant evaluation procedures, little is known about the actual practice of writing grants. “Changing Academic Grant Writing practices” is a qualitative, longitudinal study of research proposals and funding program documentation in Germany from 1955 to 2005. Nearly all existing research focuses on a single facet of research funding; and this study seeks to counter this too-narrow approach by examining the institutional embeddedness of grant writing. To this end, we shall consider academic grant writing as an interactive performance framework that includes the funding agency, the peer reviewer, and the researcher. Our theoretical framework combines institutional logics and performance theory. Institutional logics shape worldviews by providing relevance structures and frames for constructing issues, problems, and solutions. As such, they supply a repertoire of legitimate arguments for academics in search of funding, who project their “ideal selves” onto their proposal, highlighting the characteristics they deem to be of particular value or worth in a given setting and at a given moment. At the same time, this study shows that the argumentative repertoire for what constitutes quality research has changed over time.  Our content analysis thus shows an increasing tendency towards the standardization and rationalization of application guidelines and proposals from 1955 to 2005.  This paper, in addition to providing innovative insights into academic work practices, expands the institutional framework by focusing on the interactive nature of social change in the science system.