Valuation Practices and the Formation of Academic Identities: Exploring the Epistemic and Social Impacts of Performance Indicators in the Humanities

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:02
Oral Presentation
Jonatan NÄSTESJÖ, Lund Univeristy, Sweden
Empirical studies of how performance indicators affect the work and career practices of researchers in the humanities are rare. Consequently, the ways in which humanities researchers themselves engage with indicators, and the new strategic possibilities they offer, has to a large extent been neglected. The aim of the present study is to contribute to a better understanding of how performance metrics affect valuation practices, epistemic decision-making, and identity-formation of researchers in the humanities. Combing bibliometric methods and qualitative interviews, the study highlights the interplay between different orders of worth and how researchers at a comprehensive, research-intensive university in Sweden live, work, and produce knowledge within academia.

Drawing upon the concept of “regimes of valuation”, the study demonstrates that researchers in the humanities relate to different, and often contradictory, orders of worth when carrying out their everyday work. This heterogeneity indicates that disciplinary differences and academic age are important factors in order to understand how performance metrics affect valuation practices and epistemic decision-making in the humanities. Nevertheless, when making strategical investments in their future academic selves, humanities researchers tend to relate more narrowly to one dominant regime of valuing research; a regime in which performance indicators constitute a powerful discourse of what a successful academic subject is. This career driven mind-set, being most evident among PhD students and postdocs, impels humanities researchers to internalize rules of the indicator game. However, this does not occur in a non-conflictual way, creating tensions between epistemic decision-making and academic identity-formation. Regarding this, the machinery of performance metrics exists as an instrument of governmentality, producing a field of realities that researchers must act upon as they constitute themselves as a competitive and successful academic subject.