How peer review empowers the academic profession and university managers: Changes in relationships between the state, universities and the professoriate☆
Review articleOpen access

AbstractUniversities are expected to be important players in the development of knowledge economies; therefore, they are a priority on the policy agenda of the European commission and of member states. To understand the new institutional settings where knowledge production is achieved, we must turn our attention to analyzing the reforms underway.Building on conclusions from the sociology of professions, the sociology of organizations and public policy analysis, this paper argues that the policy instruments developed by public authorities to measure scientific performance and selectively allocate resources rely on peer review processes and reinforce an academic elite. As a result, the internal power distribution within the academic profession as well as within universities has changed.On the one hand, peer review is used as a managerial tool by universities. The decisions made at the university level are largely based on (and legitimated by) evaluations conducted outside the university by an elite sitting in research councils, editorial boards, and evaluation agencies.On the other hand, rather than weakening professional power, the recent reforms have instead led to a reconfiguration of the academic profession. Their influence is twofold. First, they have empowered those individuals who set the norms according to which academic activities are rewarded and funded by public actors. Second, they bolster those who receive positive reviews, since they gain a stronger position to negotiate with the managers of their university.

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