What happens when performance management systems (PMS) are increasingly relied upon to manage an activity traditionally seen as particularly hard to manage, namely academic research. This overall question is highly topical as recent studies have shown that metrics-based evaluations not only risk leading to job-related stress and window-dressing, but also to more existentialistic outcomes where researchers’ social identities may fundamentally change. However, our knowledge about how PMSs contribute to form (rather than inform) such identity change processes and their consequences is still very limited. The aim of this proposed study is therefore to (i) develop a theoretical model of how and why these processes may emerge over time, and (ii) to assess the relevance and applicability of this model on a larger sample of academics.
We combine a qualitative case study based on interviews and non-participant observations of PMS follow-up meetings, with a quantitative questionnaire survey. This mixed-method approach promises key insights into the micro-dynamics of these processes, as well as an overview of what type of PMS information Swedish researchers are exposed to and what they believe are (or will be) the effects on how they think about and act as researchers. These Insights should be highly consequential as they may contribute to a critical discussion on how the ongoing ‘quantification movement’ actually affects the direction and quality of Swedish academic research.