Sub-theme 17: Organizing Science: The Increasingly Formal Structuring of Academic Research

Richard Whitley
Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK
Jochen Gläser
Technical University Berlin, Germany

Call for Papers


The changing governance of the public sciences since World War II has been accompanied by a rapid increase in the types and numbers of formal organizations involved in the production, coordination and evaluation of pubic scientific knowledge. Research organizations themselves have not only grown in numbers but are also more varied in their structures and missions (e.g. Merz & Biniok, 2010), and have formed associations that organize lobbying or collaboration. The partial transition from recurrent to project funding has led to the emergence of funding agencies which channel money from the state or from industry to science (Braun, 1998, Benninghoff & Braun, 2010). In some countries, charities and private foundations have gained an important role in research funding. Science policy making has become based on a larger number of advisory bodies, intermediary and lobby organizations (Van der Meulen & Rip, 1998), and the institutionalisation of evaluations of research performance has given rise to agencies that oversee or conduct evaluations (Whitley & Gläser, 2007). Researchers also make use of commercial organizations, especially publishers (Thompson, 2005) and providers of research equipment, materials, and services (Kleinman, 2003: 93–95). Finally, professional organizations of academics have become more active in both organizing collaboration and communication and lobbying for the interests of researchers (Schofer, 1998; Simpson, 2002).

From the perspective of the production of scientific knowledge, this means that the control over two key processes pertinent to knowledge production – the allocation of resources and of reputations – becomes increasingly formalised. Both the strategic directions of research and the micro-level conditions for individual processes increasingly depend on formalised structures and organizational processes. As a consequence, access to and control of formal organizations becomes crucial for gaining authority over the formulation of research goals and the use that is made of research results. For example, since many organizational decisions depend on scientific judgements, the role of national scientific elites grows even though these elites themselves are not formally organized.

The aim of this sub-theme is to synthesize research on the impact of different kinds of formal organizations on the conduct and content of research by focusing on their utilisation for the exercise of authority through resource allocation and reputational processes in the public sciences. While there are case studies on specific organizations in the science such as universities, funding councils, or science policy organizations, the ensemble of formal organizations and the aggregate effects of increasing formalisation on resource and reputational processes have not yet been appreciated by either science studies or organizational sociology. In considering all formal organizations in the public sciences with regard to these functions, which remain implicit in many organizations, this subtheme provides a means of integrating studies in this broad organizational field.

By focusing on processes cutting across all formal organizations in science, the proposal links several points suggested in the call for the 28th EGOS Colloquium in Helsinki. It is the first to treat the public sciences as a 'creative industry', thereby rendering it comparable to other industries studied by organization scholars. By addressing the processes that are central to the openness and innovativeness of the public sciences but are often at best latent in organizational design issues, it also opens a perspective on unintentional consequences of organizational design in the public sciences, especially those linked to design issues of the 'new public management'. Finally, it focuses attention to the link between organizational design and the practices of exercising authority in the public sciences.

We invite contributions that address the following questions:

  • How do the specifics of formal organizations in the public sciences fit the concepts and approaches of organization research?
  • How are the tensions between fluid and fuzzy scientific communities and formal organizations mediated?
  • How do formal organizations link scientific communities to different kinds of markets?
  • Which actors can use formal organizations to exercise control over resources or the allocation of reputation?
  • How does the increasing formalisation of control over resources and reputation affect the content of research?
  • While single case studies can be submitted, we particularly welcome international and cross-disciplinary comparative studies.



Benninghoff, M. & D. Braun (2010): "Research Funding, Authority Relations, and Scientific Production in Switzerland." In: R. Whitley, J. Gläser & L. Engwall (eds): Reconfiguring Knowledge Production: Changing Authority Relationships in the Sciences and their Consequences for Intellectual Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 81–110
Braun, D. (1998): "The role of funding agencies in the cognitive development of science." Research Policy, 27 (8), 807–821
Kleinman, D.L. (2003): Impure Cultures: University Biology and the World of Commerce: University Biology at the Millennium. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press
Merz, M. & P. Biniok (2010): "How Technological Platforms Reconfigure Science-Industry Relations: The Case of Micro- and Nanotechnology." Minerva, 48, 105–124
Schofer, E. (1998): "Science Associations in the International Sphere, 1875–1990: The Realization of Science and the Scientization of Society." In: J. Boli & G.M. Thomas (eds): World Polity Formation since 1875. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 249–266
Simpson, I.H. (2002): "Life course patterns of national associations." International Sociology, 17 (2), 285–303
Thompson, J.B. (2005): Books in the Digital Age. The Transformation of Academic and Higher Education Publishing in Britain and the United States. Cambridge: Polity Press
Van der Meulen, B. & A. Rip (1998): "Mediation in the Dutch science system." Research Policy, 27 (8), 757–769
Whitley, R. & J. Gläser (2007): The Changing Governance of the Sciences. The Advent of Research Evaluation Systems. Dordrecht, Springer, 3–27


Richard Whitley Richard Whitley is Professor of Organisational Sociology at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. Recent authored and co-edited books include: Reconfiguring Knowledge Production (OUP, 2010), Business Systems and Organizational Capabilities (OUP, 2007), Changing Capitalisms? (OUP, 2005), The Multinational Firm (OUP, 2001), Divergent Capitalisms (OUP, 1999), and Competing Capitalisms (Edward Elgar, 2002). He has recently edited two special issues of Organization Studies, one on The Dynamics of Innovation Systems (2000) and one on Institutions, Markets and Organisations (2005). In 1998-99 he served as the Chair of the European Group for Organizational Studies and in 1999-2000 was the President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. From 1991 to 2010 he was a Co-convenor of the EGOS Standing Working Group on the Comparative Study of Economic organisation.
Jochen Gläser Jochen Gläser is a senior researcher at the Centre for Technology and Society of the Technical University Berlin. Current empirical projects concern national systems of research evaluation and funding in an internationally comparative perspective, the responses of German universities to evaluations, and the impact of changing authority relations on conditions for scientific innovation. Key Publications include: Wissenschaftliche Produktionsgemeinschaften: Die Soziale Ordnung der Forschung, (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2006) Reconfiguring Knowledge Production (OUP, 2010) and The Changing Governance of the Sciences: The Advent of Research Evaluation Systems (Springer,2007), both co-edited with Richard Whitley..