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‘Inspired and assisted’, or ‘berated and destroyed’? Research leadership, management and performativity in troubled times

journal contribution
posted on 2011-10-01, 00:00 authored by S Saltmarsh, Wendy Sutherland-SmithWendy Sutherland-Smith, H Randell-Moon
Research leadership in Australian universities takes place against a backdrop of policy reforms concerned with measurement and comparison of institutional research performance. In particular, the Excellence in Research in Australian initiative undertaken by the Australian Research Council sets out to evaluate research quality in Australian universities, using a combination of expert review process, and assessment of performance against ‘quality indicators’. Benchmarking exercises of this sort continue to shape institutional policy and practice, with inevitable effects on the ways in which research leadership, mentoring and practice are played out within university faculties and departments. In an exploratory study that interviewed 32 Australian academics in universities in four Australian states, we asked participants, occupying formal or informal research leadership roles, to comment on their perceptions of research leadership as envisioned and enacted in their particular workplaces. We found a pervasive concern amongst participants that coalesced around binaries characterized in metaphoric terms of ‘carrots and whips’. Research leadership was seen by many as managerial in nature, and as such, largely tethered to instrumentalist notions of productivity and performativity, while research cultures were seen as languishing under the demoralizing weight of reward and punishment systems. Here, we consider what is at stake for the future of the academic workforce under such conditions, arguing that new models of visionary research leadership are urgently needed in the ‘troubled times’ of techno-bureaucratic university reforms.

History

Journal

Ethics and education

Volume

6

Season

Special Issue: In search of the ethical university

Pagination

293-306

Location

London, England

ISSN

1744-9650

eISSN

1744-9642

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2011, Taylor & Francis

Issue

3

Publisher

Routledge