Funded by the European Research Council (2013-2018) 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 team investigates how researchers do research in the social sciences and humanities (SSH).
DISCONEX (“The Discursive Construction of Academic Excellence”) takes the perspective of the researchers as practical experts for assessing the quality and value of research. Thus, academic excellence is understood as a practical accomplishment of academics dealing with others. With its emphasis on the intricate entanglements of knowledge and power, DISCONEX contributes to the emerging field of Social Sciences and Humanities Studies (SSHS) as well as to the transdisciplinary field of Discourse Studies. The project compares academic practices and cultures of SSH research in France, Germany, the UK and the U.S., particularly in two fields with distinct knowledge traditions and institutional cultures: linguistics and sociology.
A special emphasis is 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 negotiate their social positions in scientific communities and academic institutions.
Relying on qualitative methods (such as document analysis, semi-structured and expert interviews, discourse analyses of text and talk, ethnographic case studies etc.), DISCONEX seeks to account for the variety of practical challenges researchers usually face in their everyday practices. The social world of research comprises activities as diverse as reading and writing publications, interacting with peers, colleagues and students in projects, departments, and journals, serving in committees, panels and boards, reviewing articles and proposals, applying for projects and positions and many more.

The project is concerned with the following dimensions of academic discourse:

In the area ‘Knowledge’, we study the positioning practices of researchers as knowledge producers in specialised scientific communities.
In the area ‘Power’, our aim is to account for the dynamics of power among academic researchers – from local decision-making situations to the construction of global rankings.