The multiple value of excellence funds: comparing different disciplines

Wout Scholten, Laurens Hessels, L. van Drooge

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Many science systems witness the rise of excellence policies, funding instruments that selectively support high-performing and high-potential individuals or organizations, in order to increase differentiation.

Scholars have expressed a number of concerns argueing that excellence policies may create a system where the ‘winner takes all’, that the focus on competition may hinder cooperation, or that the quality of education and broader impact recede into the background.

To date, the systematic understanding of the effects of excellence policies on scientific practices is limited. The aim of this paper is to fill this knowledge gap by analyzing the interplay between excellence funding and academic research practices in The Netherlands.

To this end we undertake three empirical endeavors. First, we analyze the patterns of excellence funding; to what degree can we observe a concentration of funding at a limited number of individuals, research groups or research areas? Second, we report on case studies of four research groups that benefit strongly from excellence funding; we show how the multiple values of excellence funding for these research groups amplifies the Matthew effect. Third, we compare the research practices of groups benefiting from excellence funding with the research practices of twelve groups not benefitting from excellence funding; do these groups construct alternative notions of excellence?

By synthesizing various types of empirical data we gain insight into the implications of excellence policies on the degree of differentiation and their effects on academic research practices and epistemic content.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2016
Event4S/EASST conference: Science & technology by other means: Exploring collectives, spaces and futures - CCIB, Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 31 Aug 201603 Sept 2016


Conference4S/EASST conference
Abbreviated title4S/EASST 2016
Internet address


  • Excellence
  • Excellence policy
  • Research funding
  • Research policy


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