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Scientists in charge: the side effects of hybrid careers between research and science policy
European Science Foundation-ZiF Conference “SCIENCE AND VALUES” (2009)
  • Manuel Fernández-Esquinas
  • Javier López-Facal
  • Irene Ramos-Vielba

What are the implications of the fact that the most important positions in science policy are held by credentialed and experienced researchers? We propose that appointing scientists to high-level responsibilities in R&D systems have some side effects for both policy making and for the organizational arrangements in S&T organizations that rely on public funding. Stratification mechanisms in the governance of science create a kind of hybrid career between research and science policy. People needed for managing public bodies and research organizations are researchers with expertise in the special arrangements of science. At the same time, distinguished scientists are seen as legitimated actors to manage and allocate resources in research systems. As a result, it is common to find scientists in charge of S&T related public bodies such as ministries, governmental committees and evaluation and funding agencies. Most of administration and managerial duties in universities and public research centres are also occupied by scientists. This paper addresses the issue of hybrid careers from the point of view of the implications they have for decision making processes in science policy. We use 65 professional life stories of researchers that have held administration, management and political positions in the Spanish R&D system between 1975 and 2008. We analyse their career paths and decision-making experiences, taking into account the historical context and the entities where they have been in charge. We focus on two facets that can be considered as side effects of the governance of science. First, we study to what extent scientists bring values and ideas from their research sites and specialties to policy making. Effects observed are related to organizational arrangements and policy tools implemented by the state to support and orient scientific activities. Second, we study the problem of tacit knowledge in S&T policy. Effects of rotation of scientist in high-level positions are identified in terms of the implications for organizational learning in this domain. The conclusions discuss the balance between the self government of science as a guarantee for its independence from politics and the requirements for developing effective and accumulative policies.

  • science policy,
  • careers
Publication Date
Citation Information
Manuel Fernández-Esquinas, Javier López-Facal and Irene Ramos-Vielba. "Scientists in charge: the side effects of hybrid careers between research and science policy" European Science Foundation-ZiF Conference “SCIENCE AND VALUES” (2009)
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