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Message posted on 03/12/2023

Open Panel "Do you need a laboratory if you have a project?" EASST/4s 16-19 juil 2024

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that we will organise a panel at the next EASST/4S congress in Amsterdam, from 16 to 19 July 2024, entitled Do you need a laboratory if you have a project? How projectification transforms public research and research collectives .

Our aim is to examine the practical implications of project-based funding for the organisation of academic work and the structuring of scientific collectives. We want to explore the diversity of situations that the term 'projects' is intended to characterise, ranging from grants of a few thousand euros for the organisation of one-off events, ERC grants attached to a 'principal investigator' over several years, to quasi-institutions that operate for a decade and sometimes even involve internal calls for projects.

You can find a [ | summary of the panel ] on the conference website, as well as at the end of this email.

The [ | call for papers ] is open until 12 February. If you have any questions about the organisation and content of the panel, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In previous editions of the conference, 4S granted travel grants to students and low-income researchers on request. Unfortunately we do not know whether this initiative - which is necessary to reduce inequalities concerning funding capacity - will be repeated this year.

We look forward to hearing from you, Best,

Victoria Brun and Anne-Gaëlle Beurier

Open Panel abstract:

It is common nowadays to observe the generalization of project-grant programs for public research funding (Larédo and Mustar, 2001). Nonetheless, its concrete effects on labor organization and scientific collectives have been little studied to date. While programming by project tender is a specific and ancient instrument of research public policy and financing mechanism (opposed to recurring funding), entities that are called “projects” considerably differ. From short-term contracts to large-scale programs, acting as a financial extension or temporary institution. This is evident concerning Big science communities (Vermeulen, 2009), organized around long-term equipment projects exceeding individual laboratory scale in contrast to collectives who work on a succession of small projects (in funding and duration). Building on recent research recognizing that funding mechanisms are inseparably policy tools, research structuring, and knowledge production (Gläser and Velarde, 2018), this panel investigates the transformations project-grant programs bring to research along three axes.

A first axis will explore how projects fit into other spaces: some remain budget-dependent on laboratories when others create a temporary institution, blurring boundaries between projects, teams, and laboratories.

A second axis will examine division of labor within research projects, the composition of associated collectives (researchers from diverse status, research administrators, private or public actors), and their role into shaping careers and scientific trajectories.

A third axis will analyze how collectives understand the political motivations behind project funding, produce normative assessments and their role into shaping these policies. The New Public Management doctrine promotes projects as a more accountable form to steer research toward social priorities areas. Researchers may embrace project ambitions for an interdisciplinary and socially relevant research, or reject it, invoking serendipity for instance.

The panel welcomes empirically supported contributions from various countries and diverse entities (university, agencies, ministries, foundations...). They can be cross-axes.

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