IViR Lecture by Gemma Derrick on research culture and academic governance systems
The other side of excellence:
failure, research culture and the role of academic governance systems
Academic culture, knowledge production and the systems used to govern it, reflect a discourse of success. Within these discourse, research is used to benefit society, knowledge is produced and therefore open for utility when it is gains publication, and we celebrate researchers that win prizes, grants and promotions. However, behind this discourse of positivity lies a culture that is highly polarised and committed to promoting one image of success for both outputs (research) and its actors (researchers). In addition, this culture is riddled with behaviours and biases that work to embed gender, racial disparities among its actors, and methodological and geographical disparities in the knowledge that is produced (outputs). As a result, the research reward cycle, promotes both governance systems (such as peer review) and gatekeepers (peers, evaluators) as well as a sole threshold of academic excellence by which to measure success. This results in labelling outputs and actors that fail to mirror this success as failure.
Whereas, there is a renewed commitment towards addressing disparities and building a kinder, more equitable research culture, this is achieved by measuring individuals against a sole idea of what success, and concluding why individuals were not able to achieve this threshold, therefore ‘failing’. An alternative view, is to explore examples of failure to understand how the system fails the individual, rather than of how the individual fails. Using preliminary work by the Research Phoenix team, this presentation explores how a ‘failure lens’ can strengthen funding peer review evaluation processes. This alternative lens explores how academic governance systems work to create, emphasize and embed common disparities in research and how to make research culture more inclusive, holistic and kinder.
Dr Gemma Derrick is a Senior Lecturer (Higher Education) at Lancaster University. Her research focuses on research culture, meta-research, and the influence of research assessment and evaluation systems on research productivity and behaviour. She has published a number of high-impact articles on topics associated with research culture, peer review and impact evaluation and is internationally known for her work around research audit frameworks and advocacy for a kinder research culture. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Publications, and Director of the Peer and Expert Review Laboratory (PEARL) which, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust and Proposal Analytics is working to build a kinder, more inclusive peer review system that supports the formative development of Early Career Researchers.
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