Presentation Details

The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations

Autonomy in different Managerial Systems within the Public Research Sector in Denmark vs. Researchers’ Attitude on Influence and Resources

Kamma Langberg, Evanthia Kalpazidou Schmidt, Ebbe Gravensen.

Research autonomy and freedom are refereed to as core elements of the university culture when university management is discussed in general but also under change: research management is by some researchers at universities and other research institutions seen upon as a self-evident contradiction: original research depends on the researchers insight and knowledge. This insight is therefore a necessary precondition for productive and effective outcome of the research process. Therefore the researchers need to have a direct influence within the research process, on the research projects, on the allocation of resources, etc., e.g. the individual researcher as well as the research institutions need to have a large degree of autonomy. This large degree of autonomy within research management may form a special type of management: ‘autonomy management’.

A central question in this connection is: Can other knowledge organisations learn from ‘autonomy management’ as it has been functioning at universities and other research organisations or does the ‘autonomy management’ culture belong to the past? And consequently what lies behind the tales of research autonomy and freedom?

In this paper the actual managerial culture and the formal structure at the Danish universities and the government research institutes is described and compared to researchers attitudes on influence on their working conditions and access to resources for research. The discussion is partly based on the results from three surveys: one study on researchers at GRIs from 1998 (n=959), one study on university researchers in 2000/2001 (n=2209) and one study on 15 subgroups that were characterised as dynamic and innovative within the universities and the GRIs (n=231).

The results point to a perspective where research management and autonomy of research turns out to be two sides of the same coin instead of a contradiction and point to that knowledge managers in general can learn from the ‘dynamic research managers’.


Kamma Langberg  (Denmark)
Senior Researcher
Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy
University of Aarhus

Evanthia Kalpazidou Schmidt  (Denmark)

Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy

Ebbe Gravensen  (Denmark)

Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy

  • Research management
  • Universities
  • Government Research Institutes
  • Empirical study
  • Log-liniear model
  • Dynamic and innovative research units

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)