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Changing authority relations within French academic research units since the 1960s: from patronage to partnership

Abstract : This chapter casts light on some intra-organizational consequences of the structural transformations which have affected the French public science system since the 1960s, particularly how relations of authority between the directors of research units and their team leaders have shifted from the "patronage" type dominant in the 1960s to the "partnership" type prevailing today. More open and competitive academic labour markets have restricted the directors' direct influence on recruitments and promotions; a gradual increase of contractual funding puts an end to their monopoly over contract management; and the formalization of assessment procedures limits his advocacy role on behalf of their teams. The authority of directors over their teams seems to have diminished along with this transition. However directors still play a mediating role between their teams and the external environment and they can still provide the team's strategic resources. Furthermore, they partly contribute to the teams' ability to bridge and to buffer themselves against their external environments (Meznar and Nigh, 1995). Finally, the transition observed here can be considered as one of the micro sociological expressions of a broader trend also occurring in other countries, which can be characterized as the evolution of state-coordinated public science systems towards more state-shared ones, and even perhaps moving to a limited form of state-delegated ones (Whitley in this volume). In this type of public research system, funding agencies and the administrative heads of research institutions effectively act to restrain the authority of the scientific elites (such as the research laboratory directors).
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Séverine Louvel. Changing authority relations within French academic research units since the 1960s: from patronage to partnership. R. Whitley, J. Gläser and L. Engwall. Reconfiguring Knowledge Production: Changing Authority Relations in the Sciences and Their Consequences for Intellectual Innovation, Oxford University Press, pp.184-210, 2010. ⟨halshs-00667826⟩

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