mad maths series header full resolutionImage credit: Milena Kremakova

This series is made up of posts developed from the Accelerated Academy series of conferences. The first event, held in Prague in December 2015 and hosted by the Czech Academy of Sciences, explored power, acceleration and metrics in academic life. The second event, held in Leiden in December 2016 and hosted by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), investigated temporality, evaluation and politics. Contributions, compiled below, come from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives and explore the history, development and structure of audit cultures in higher education, digitally mediated measurement and the quantification of scholarship. This series was coordinated by Mark Carrigan (@mark_carrigan) and Filip Vostal (@filvos). Videocasts of the conference can be found on the Sociological Review blog.

The Accelerated Academy

  • More work is required to make academic “timescapes” worth inhabiting and to open up space for creative work

More work is required to make academic “timescapes” worth inhabiting and to open up space for creative work

Is the problem with contemporary academia really one of constant acceleration? Ulrike Felt argues that focusing too much on acceleration overlooks a more complex phenomenon at work. What is needed is careful investigation of “time generators”, the key sites in academia that create binding temporal requirements and regulations. Many of academia’s recent reforms – to funding structures, assessment exercises, […]

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  • Advancing to the next level: the quantified self and the gamification of academic research through social networks

Advancing to the next level: the quantified self and the gamification of academic research through social networks

Measurement of performance using digital tools is now commonplace, even in institutional activities such as academic research. The phenomenon of the “quantified self” is particularly evident in academic social networks. Björn Hammarfelt, Sarah de Rijcke, Alex Rushforth, Iris Wallenburg and Roland Bal argue that ResearchGate and similar services represent a “gamification” of research, drawing on features usually associated with online […]

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  • Lies are fast, truth is slow: the importance of mastering the rhythms of academic life and work

Lies are fast, truth is slow: the importance of mastering the rhythms of academic life and work

In the context of Trumpism and the victory of fast emotions over the slower pace of reasoning and education, Dick Pels hails the unique perspective encouraged by science; the ability to slow down, freeze-frame, and dissect things, liberated from the demands of urgency, immediacy and publicity. However, this should not detract from the existence of temporal diversity within academic […]

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  • The importance of being REF-able: academic writing under pressure from a culture of counting

The importance of being REF-able: academic writing under pressure from a culture of counting

Writing is crucial to an academic’s role of producing, shaping and distributing knowledge. However, academic writing itself is increasingly being shaped by the contemporary university’s managerial practices and evaluation frameworks. Sharon McCulloch describes how her research on academics’ writing practices has revealed tensions around the ways in which managerial practices interact with academics’ individual career goals, disciplinary values and […]

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  • It’s time to teach — but which time is it? Tracing academic practices through more appropriate time metrics.

It’s time to teach — but which time is it? Tracing academic practices through more appropriate time metrics.

Academics may be well aware of mounting time pressures but is standard clock-time useful for understanding academic work? Alexander Mitterle, Carsten Würmann, and Roland Bloch look at how teaching is understood in relation to time in German universities. They report how the SWS, a figure related to an individual course frame, can be understood as a quantifiable time classification, but one […]

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  • A Culture of Speed: Anticipation, Acceleration and Individualization in Academic Science.

A Culture of Speed: Anticipation, Acceleration and Individualization in Academic Science.

Ruth Müller draws attention to the social and epistemic effects of a culture of speed in academia. Her research looks at how this wider culture has produced in particular two modes of being and relating for researchers: anticipatory acceleration and latent individualization. These modes could have significant effects on the type of research questions explored and on scientific networks […]

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  • What makes research excellent? Digging into the measures aimed at quantifying and promoting research excellence.

What makes research excellent? Digging into the measures aimed at quantifying and promoting research excellence.

“Research excellence” is a tricky concept in theory and arguably trickier to capture in practice. Toni Pustovrh shares findings from a recent study which looks at how research is currently quantified and evaluated in Slovenia. In-depth interviews with scientists reveal a variety of views on the concept and the current mechanisms in place. The analysis suggests that neither a predominantly peer-review based […]

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  • Getting our hands dirty: why academics should design metrics and address the lack of transparency.

Getting our hands dirty: why academics should design metrics and address the lack of transparency.

Metrics in academia are often an opaque mess, filled with biases and ill-judged assumptions that are used in overly deterministic ways. By getting involved with their design, academics can productively push metrics in a more transparent direction. Chris Elsden, Sebastian Mellor and Rob Comber introduce an example of designing metrics within their own institution. Using the metric of grant income, their tool ResViz […]

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  • Organising logic: Project time versus process time in the accelerated academy.

Organising logic: Project time versus process time in the accelerated academy.

There are two contrasting temporal logics in academia that shape the ways in which research is understood: project time and process time. Oili-Helena Ylijoki explores the differences between the two. On one hand, there is the tightly scheduled, linear, decontextualized, predictable and compressed project time, and on the other, there is the unbounded, multi-directional, context-dependent, emergent and timeless process time. Due to […]

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  • Addicted to the brand: The hypocrisy of a publishing academic

Addicted to the brand: The hypocrisy of a publishing academic

Academics generally recognise that the scholarly publishing business model is flawed, the impact factor does not point to quality, and open access is a good idea. And yet, academics continue to submit their work to the same for-profit journals. Philip Moriarty looks at what is keeping academics from practicing what they preach. Despite many efforts to counter the perception, journal ‘branding’ […]

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  • Accounting for Impact? How the Impact Factor is shaping research and what this means for knowledge production.

Accounting for Impact? How the Impact Factor is shaping research and what this means for knowledge production.

Why does the impact factor continue to play such a consequential role in academia? Alex Rushforth and Sarah de Rijcke look at how considerations of the metric enter in from early stages of research planning to the later stages of publication. Even with initiatives against the use of impact factors, scientists themselves will likely err on the side of caution and continue […]

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  • Mathematicians against the clock: Accelerated work and accelerated careers in the Neoliberal University

Mathematicians against the clock: Accelerated work and accelerated careers in the Neoliberal University

Even though we grapple with different scientific questions, academics in different disciplines all face the same ongoing challenges with academic acceleration. Dr Milena Kremakova argues mathematics as a discipline is an excellent test case for understanding recent transformations in academia — and a cautionary tale for the social sciences and humanities. The main problem is that technocratic time of the neoliberal […]

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  • Ancient Cultures of Conceit Reloaded? A comparative look at the rise of metrics in higher education.

Ancient Cultures of Conceit Reloaded? A comparative look at the rise of metrics in higher education.

When considering the power of metrics and audit culture in higher education, are we at risk of romanticising the past? Have academics ever really worked in an environment free from ‘measurement’? Roger Burrows draws on his own recollection of the 1986 Research Selectivity Exercise (RSE), scholarly work on academic labour and fictional portrayals of academic life, which all demonstrate the substantial expansion of the role […]

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  • Is it ethical to be passionate in academia? Passion is a central concept for understanding academic labour.

Is it ethical to be passionate in academia? Passion is a central concept for understanding academic labour.

Today we launch a new series of posts from a recent conference about the Accelerated Academy. Pieces over the next few weeks will explore the history, development and structure of audit cultures in Higher Education, digitally mediated measurement and the quantification of scholarship. The first piece in the series is from Fabian Cannizzo. Drawing from his research in Australia, he explores performance management criteria, […]

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  • Life in the Accelerated Academy: anxiety thrives, demands intensify and metrics hold the tangled web together.

Life in the Accelerated Academy: anxiety thrives, demands intensify and metrics hold the tangled web together.

The imagined slowness of university life has given way to a frenetic pace, defined by a perpetual ratcheting up of demands and an entrepreneurial ethos seeking new and quantifiable opportunities. Mark Carrigan explores the toxic elements of this culture and its underlying structural roots. As things get faster, we tend to accept things as they are rather than imagining how they might […]

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  • Should academics adopt an ethic of slowness or ninja-like productivity? In search of scholarly time

Should academics adopt an ethic of slowness or ninja-like productivity? In search of scholarly time

When viewed in the broader context of late modernity, responses to the increasingly frenetic academic workload can be more clearly understood, argues Filip Vostal. Rather than choosing between the regressive ethic of slow scholarship on the one hand, or the time management productivity trainings on the other, academics may benefit from a more level-headed approach that emphasises autonomy over their use of […]

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