Forskningsledelse i det offentlige: I et styringsteknologisk perspektiv

Inge Danielsen & Rolf Steffensen

Student thesis: Master executive thesis


In this thesis for the Master’s Degree in Public Administration we analyse research management and try to contrast public research managers in University and Hospital settings with research managers in the private sector. Specifically we analyse the use of steering technologies. Our interest in this field is motivated by current institutional changes in the research area elicited by the reorganization of The Advisory and Funding System for Research and Innovation and the University Reform which both aim at a closer relationship between the research and the surrounding society, while the University Reform is also intended to strengthen management at the universities. In all, these innovations challenge the balance between independent and strategic research. On the basis of institutional theory, we present a theoretical outline for observing the institutional sphere in which research is taking place. The focus is on the survival of institutions in this sphere, as well as their ability to attract and retain resources, and to gain and maintain legitimacy. These issues may contribute to the framing of research management, and to the handling by responsible managers of the uncertainties and contingencies that may importantly impact survival and success of their institutions. Being aware of the potential collision of the steering agendas of the research manager, of the social institutions, and of governmental politics, we include theory of steering technologies and power to further study the conditions for and effects of research management. The usage of steering technologies and power is examined by interviewing four research managers at Novo Nordisk A/S, representing a reputable firm with a large and effective research department, and five research managers employed in the public sector, all affiliated with the University of Copenhagen. Although the contexts and personal modes of leadership vary between the two sectors, we identify in both circumstances three similar and dominant steering technologies: organization, strategic management, and emphasis on measurable results. While organizing and emphasis on measurable results positions the research manager in the role of an ambassador relative to his (her) superiors, strategic management appears to encourage initiation of personal initiatives and deliberate usage of steering technologies in order to achieve specific targets. In the Discussion we interpret our observations regarding steering technologies and power in the context of the institutional structure. In this respect, there are differences between the two sectors. In the public sector, we discover that increasing reporting requirements are in opposition to the traditional rationale with less controlled and more independent research, and that financial conditions are strongly restrictive and increasingly direct which research projects can be performed. In comparison, the power is surprisingly decentralised in the private sector, which also – like the public sector - does not connect much real and strong, applicable power – only formal power - with the position of the research managers. In the public sector, the managers have the possibility to expand the power for example through external relations. With regard to strategic management, it depends on the decisions by the public research manager whether and to which extent management of professional specialties is going to be achieved, or if the strategic management is restricted to educational activities, as well as budget and staff management. The former approach is associated with substantial institutional resistance because of the norms of the research field. It may be less problematic to manage and exercise power through networks and external engagement, although this approach will require entrepreneurial skills. In conclusion, public research management is highly restricted by institutional frames such as structure and financials conditions on the one hand and norms and traditions on the other hand.

EducationsMaster of Public Administration, (Executive Master Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages133