Conceptions and expectations of research collaboration in the European social sciences: Research policies, institutional contexts and the autonomy of the scientific field

Yann Lebeau, Vassiliki Papatsiba

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This paper investigates the interactions between policy drivers and academic practice in international research collaboration. It draws on the case of the Open Research Area (ORA), a funding scheme in the social sciences across four national research agencies, seeking to boost collaboration by supporting “integrated” projects. The paper discusses the scheme’s governance and its place within the European policy space before turning to awarded researchers’ perceptions of its originality and impact on their project’s emergence and development. Drawing on Bourdieu’s field theory, we analyse the scheme’s capacity to challenge researchers’ habitual collaborative practice as well as the hierarchical foundations of the social science field. We relate the discourses of researchers, located in France, Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, to such structural dimensions of the academic profession as, disciplinary cultures, institutional environments and national performance management of research careers. The paper argues that the ORA introduced novel mechanisms of power sharing and answerability in social sciences research capable of unsettling the autonomy of the scientific field. This analysis offers a new perspective on the often unquestioned superiority of the model of international collaboration induced by schemes such as the ORA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-394
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Issue number4
Early online date18 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • research collaboration
  • Open Research Area (ORA)
  • European research policy
  • scientific field
  • higher education

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