Reference : Adaptative struggle in "institutions of knowledge" : constructing internal orders in ...
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference/Abstract
Law, criminology & political science : Political science, public administration & international relations
Adaptative struggle in "institutions of knowledge" : constructing internal orders in the chaos of social transformation
Fallon, Catherine mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Département de science politique > Gouvernance et société >]
EASST 010 : 'Practicing Science and Technology, Performing the Social'
2-4 septembre 2010
[en] Science policy ; policy instruments ; institutionalism
[en] Since the 19th century, universities are the locus of most public research in Belgium, with a ongoing interaction with industry. After WWI, a group of industrialists succeeded launching a privately financed "Research Council", the FNRS (Fondation Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique) with the support of the highest political authority, King Albert 1st. Historians (Halleux & Xhayet, 2008) documented how this specific institution emerged, from an industry based project towards a "mertonian" institution of knowledge contributing to unify the scientific community at the level of the country, while bypassing the historical divisions of the three worlds of universities (state; catholic; free).
Based on a recent field work on the transformation of the instruments of science policy in Belgium, this paper proposes to analyse in some depth the dynamics of transformation of the FNRS at its emergence as well as the transformations this institution had to go through in order to survive till now : under the same acronym, the institution had to transform itself in order to adapt to social change and pressure for transformation. The main steps were to maintain its independence while being funded by the state (after WWII); to reinforce its identity in competition against emerging strategic science policy instruments; to stand the pressure to democratisation which opposed its elitist model in the organisation of research; to survive the decentralisation process which affected all political structures in the country after 1968 onwards. This analysis will unveil some of the mechanisms of adjustment which it had to mobilise in order to survive, and particularly the practicalities of the forms of cooperation of the different stakeholders supporting the institution through 80 years of existence: the researchers themselves as members of the "community" this institution is serving; the authorities of the three main universities whose positions have continuously grown; industry partners and political authorities.
We propose to prolong this analyse by a comparison with the processes of emergence of the ERC (European Research Council), an institution also devoted to the identity construction of a specific scientific community ( but a community without a real "polity") and also struggling with stakeholders for the definition of settings of community participation and administrative and political control. At 80 years of distance, we observe the emergence of two institutions similarly designed to support the emergence of a "scientific collective" : they design autonomously their internal procedures of categorisation and hierarchisation, with identification processes contributing to the definition of institutional boundaries defining a specific field while ensuring its inscription in the society through a specific legitimating strategy (Douglas, 1986). A diachronic analysis helps underline how socially constructed are these institutions, and how the configuration of networks are continuously redesigned to better be embedded in a specific historic society (Laborier, 2003).
Researchers ; Professionals

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