What is the role of the state in distributing research money? How do ‘arm’s-length’ funding agencies relate to public policy and business? This original study looks at the main social science funding agency in the UK, which was established 50 years ago. It examines how funding decisions are related to power. The ‘critical’ and ‘policy’ aspects of successful research bids are discussed. Walker asks the tricky question, why has social science research not achieved a more salient role in state policy formation and management strategy: is the funding agency responsible? Insightful, engrossing and highly original, the book will be required reading for anyone who has written or will write a Social Science research bid and, more widely, for students of power, knowledge and culture.

Academic Capture

Academic Capture

SUMMARY

The research council became a club, or mutual for academics: a mechanism for distributing support, geared to the identity of disciplines, not the ‘problems’ that its founders had envisaged it tackling.

‘Academic capture’ makes it sound conspiratorial. It’s meant in Dahrendorf’s sense that ‘social science lost its intrinsically public character’ and failed to resist the ‘built-in tendency towards autarky’ in which guilds and sects compete and exclude (Dahrendorf, 1995a). In parallel, the Council became – and remains – ‘a fair shares cooperative’ for academics (Walker, 1975b). The phrase was coined by Jeremy Mitchell, the SSRC scientific secretary from 1966, perhaps bearing in mind the Robbins’ Report judgement on Oxford and Cambridge – ‘syndicalist organisations, pure examples of producers’ democracy’ (Howson, 2011: 919). ...

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