The Impacts of Incentives for International Publications on Research Cultures in Chinese Humanities and Social Sciences

Minerva 59 (4):469-492 (2021)
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Incentives for improving research productivity at universities prevail in global academia. However, the rationale, methodology, and impact of such incentives and consequent evaluation regimes are in need of scrutinization. This paper explores the influences of financial and career-related publishing incentive schemes on research cultures. It draws on an analysis of 75 interviews with academics, senior university administrators, and journal editors from China, a country that has seen widespread reliance on international publication counts in research evaluation and reward systems. The study focuses on humanities and social sciences as disciplinary sites, which embody distinct characteristics and have experienced the introduction of incentive schemes in China since the early 2000s. Findings reveal tensions between internationalization and indigenization, quality and quantity, integrity and instrumentalism, equity and inequity in Chinese academia. In particular, we argue that a blanket incentive scheme could reinforce a managerial culture in higher education, encourage performative objectification of academics, and jeopardize their agency. We thereby challenge ‘one-size-fits-all’ policymaking, and suggest instead that institutions should have the opportunity to adopt an ethical and ‘human-oriented’ approach when developing their research incentives and evaluation mechanisms.



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Xin Xu
University of Oxford