Department of Business Administration

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Josefine Fischer

Our only doctor in 2015 was Josefine Fischer, who defended her thesis "Knowledge Compromise(d)? Ways and values of coproduction in academia." on November 20th. Below you can find out more about Josefine and her research, described in her own words.

After having received a bachelor’s degree in economic geography and gender studies I realised I had to start thinking about a plan for my future studies. I found, by coincidence, a Master’s program in society, science and technology in Europe, to be held at CIRCLE and the Research Policy Institute at Lund University. I applied and was admitted.  The program contained many interesting parts, concerning the philosophy and theory of science. It also touched upon policy issues and I started to wonder how it came that economic growth was such an overarching goal in all policy measures. It seemed to me like a detour by which prosperity would be created through actions taken that would encroach the wealth of the majority of people. Ever since the Master’s program growth critique has been an immanent part of my understanding of the world.

However, during the program I came in contact with my intended supervisor, professor Mats Benner. He had a project together with the Knowledge Foundation, of which I became a part as a PhD candidate in the autumn of 2010. The project was centred on newly established universities and university colleges in Sweden, the target group for the Knowledge Foundation, and the strategy of co-production which is a policy measure adopted by the Knowledge Foundation stipulating that companies should co-fund research projects with 50 %.

The topic was research policy; a field in which research practices can be the object of investigation. I began working out my PhD project with a focus on social science, to counter the dominance in research policy and STS (Science and Technology Studies) to study the natural and engineering sciences. It was not too easy though; most centres funded by the Knowledge Foundation are in engineering, a consequence of the co-production strategy and the requirement to incorporate companies in research projects. I ended up with one social science centre, one design-oriented and one engineering centre. A first analytical theme is that the shift that has taken place in policies for research since the 1970s, the increasing significance of knowledge as a competitive factor and the organisational changes that followed this entails a colonisation of the university by market forces. The increased market dominance of academia is not a controversial stance, it has been elaborated by several authors, among them Philip Mirowski, Sheila Slaughter and Larry L. Leslie.

As the work proceeded I became more and more interested in epistemology, in the very fundamental perspectives according to which the research was done. I also found that in most policy writings, knowledge is treated as an entity, thought to include all the perspectives prevalent in the university. But in reality knowledge from a policy perspective equalises technological and scientific knowledge. In order to counter this I analysed ‘my’ research centres as representing different knowledge cultures. Knowledge cultures can be revealed by looking at the relation to the object or phenomenon of inquiry. The object or phenomenon can be isolated and well elaborated or it can be complex with multiple understandings of it existing simultaneously. By use of the theories of Jürgen Habermas and Richard Whitely, I managed to develop a framework by which I could analyse the take on knowledge making by the researchers but also by the non-academic actors involved in the process. Hence, what I have done is to deconstruct the colonisation of the university by market forces to its epistemological constituting parts.

Josefine Fischer