Led by Professor Johannes Angermuller and located at the University of Warwick (Coventry, UK), École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris, France) and FHNW (Bale, Switzerland), the DISCONEX project ("The Discursive Construction of Academic Excellence", 1.5 million€, 2013-2018) investigated how researchers do research in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). The DISCONEX team had around 20 members, including linguists, sociologists, developpers and technical assistants. DISCONEX has led to the ERC funded Proof of Concept Project INTAC ("The International Register of Academic Status Categories"). The International Register of Academic Status Categories", 2017-2019, 150000€), which has made DISCONEX insights into the social categories of academics available to the higher education sector.
DISCONEX investigated the social practices of researchers , their practices, knowledges and careers. The team has compared academic systems and cultures of research in the social sciences and humanities in France, Germany, the UK and the U.S., particularly in two fields with distinct knowledge traditions and institutional cultures: linguistics and sociology. With its emphasis on the intricate entanglements of knowledge and power, DISCONEX has contributed to the reflexive investigation of research and higher education.
Special emphasis have been placed on the social uses that are made of language by SSH researchers, who often deal with subtle and complex meaning produced through text and talk. Therefore, SSH research is conceptualised as a discursive practice, which not only conveys certain concepts and ideas but also allows the researchers to establish their social positions in scientific communities and academic institutions. Focusing on discursive practices of using language in social contexts, DISCONEX understands academic excellence as a practical accomplishment of academics dealing with others through language. By participating in academic discourse, researchers engage in valuation practices in which some gain visibility and recognition while others fail to be heard. A central question is how researchers are categorised as members of academic communities (be it as a "Directeur d'études" or as a "Chomksyan", as a "laureate of XYZ" or as a "woman from Austria", as a "columnist in Die Zeit" or as a "disciple of ZYX").
Relying on qualitative methods (such as document analysis, semi-structured and expert interviews, discourse analyses of text and talk etc.) as well as quantitative methods (such as sequence analysis and corpus methods), DISCONEX sought to account for the variety of practical challenges researchers usually face in their everyday practices. We carried out more than 200 interviews with researchers as practical experts for assessing the quality and value of research. We also analysed the academic CVs of around 3000 academics and carried out case studies of certain fields and areas. While we dissected micro-practices of valuating research and researchers, we investigated career patterns of large academic populations. We have identified eight clusters of typical academic careers and we carried out an analysis of the keywords and narrative descriptions of professors' research orientations.
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