Temporality in Academic Evaluation
‘Trajectoral Thinking’ in the Assessment of Biomedical Researchers
This paper builds on emerging concerns with how temporality and spatiality unfold in, and order, academic evaluation practices. We unpack how the notion of ‘trajectory’ – a simultaneously prospective and retrospective narrative device permeating contemporary academic evaluation discourses – is mobilized within a particular evaluation site. Materials for our study are drawn from reports commissioned by Swedish universities when hiring for new professors. These texts are authored by external referees who rank and compare candidates, in this case for associate and full professorship positions in biomedicine. By using the theoretical perspective of ‘narrative infrastructures’ we explore how the referee reports mobilize ‘trajectories’ to weave together disparate bits of evidence extracted from the bylines of biomedical researchers’ CVs: publication numbers, impact factors, authorship positions and ‘earning power’. Our analysis finds certain resemblances across reports of what constitutes an ideal candidate’s career trajectory, but none of these are completely identical. We consider how ‘the trajectory’ is evoked as a singularity within this genre of writing, thereby bestowing retrospectively a sense of coherence and purpose on the past performance and prospective development of careers. We discuss the implications of our findings in terms of how ‘trajectorism’ shapes evaluation in academic biomedicine and possibly beyond, and propose suggestions for how this dominant narrative might be challenged.
Copyright (c) 2020 Björn Hammarfelt, Alexander D. Rushforth, Sarah de Rijcke
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