Project management and research governance – towards a critical agenda beyond neoliberalization? – commentary to Refstie
In this contribution to the debate that followed the publication of Hilde Refstie’s timely and cogent Reconfiguring research relevance, I propose to take a closer look at the funding structures that bind academia and other institutional and private sector actors into networks of collaboration and research co-production often experienced as dysfunctional. In particular, I focus on competitive funding bids that distribute financial and labour resources by awarding short-term ‘projects’, with particular reference to European Union (EU) projects. Drawing on my current research work on the ‘project economy’, co-led with Nadine Hassouneh and funded by the KONE Foundation at Tampere University, I make two initial suggestions that expand on some of the points raised so far in the discussion hosted by Fennia. First, project-based research funding is a more politicized and coercive tool than we tend to think. Second, project management and project-based work, and the associated patterns of (gendered and racialized) precarization and even abuse, have a longer and more ingrained history than what we commonly identify as the ‘neoliberalization’ of academia. By way of conclusion, I highlight how scrutinizing the funding architectures that enable and constrain our work help us to explore the relation between research and policy, beyond the limits of critical categories such as ‘neoliberalism’.
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