Project Project
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How science and European Union politics come to terms with legitimising basic research – interpretive schemes, sense selection and the establishment of a European Research Council

Research Fields
Innovation, Knowledge, and Culture
ongoing since 04 2010
DFG Research Training Group "Entering the Knowledge Society: Science in Applied and Advisory Contexts", IWT Bielefeld

Over the last 30 years, social scientists have continuously seen the legitimacy of basic research contested, including its funding modes and organisation. This questioning is due to purported changes in knowledge production as well as to the various social pressures on science to prove its social and economic benefits. If the legitimacy of basic research is under attack, then why and how can new forms of basic research funding arise and stabilise? In other words: How can science and politics come to an understanding for establishing and sustaining the institutional legitimacy of basic research? In this dissertation, this question will be answered by reconstructing a policy process, which has led to a new research funding organisation: the European Research Council (ERC). The chief attraction of this study is that it is situated in a policy field hitherto dominated by industrial and politically integrative reasoning: since the early 1980s, the European Commission has organised the Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development to overcome a technology gap with the U.S. and emerging high-tech regions of South-Asia. This conceptual idea has been widely enlarged as a result of further political motives addressing issues such as integrating new member states and their R&D entities into the EU, thus rendering the initial concept of the ERC even more unlikely to be established. Not least, basic research funding in Europe has primarily been arranged by national funding bodies, while the EU had been repudiated to take action. In this respect, the policy process that eventually led to the ERC should serve as a case to analyse the underlying interpretive schemes ("Deutungsmuster") in order to shed light on how politics can make sense of science and connect the latter's concepts into an existing organisational framework. Which distinctive interpretive schemes were operational to integrate the ERC into the dominant logic of EU research policies, and what might be special about them? Why have some, and not other, interpretive schemes become dispositive for selecting sense and meaning in the course of justifying the ERC? Moreover, how can distinct organisational features of this research funding body be interpreted in the light of these interpretive schemes? The methodological approach of this dissertation combines objective hermeneutics with discourse analysis applied to a mixture of primarysource and interview-based data.

Supervisor: Prof. Alfons Bora