, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 431–452 | Cite as

Excellence and Frontier Research as Travelling Concepts in Science Policymaking

  • Tim FlinkEmail author
  • Tobias PeterEmail author


Excellence and frontier research have made inroads into European research policymaking and structure political agendas, funding programs and evaluation practices. The two concepts travelled a long way from the United States and have derived from contexts outside of science (and policy). Following their conceptual journey, we ask how excellence and frontier research have percolated into European science and higher education policies and how they have turned into lubricants of competition that buttress an ongoing reform process in Europe.


Science policy Discourse analysis Conceptual history Excellence Frontier research European Research Council Metaphors 


  1. Abe, Yoshiya, Hiroshi Inose, Tetsuji Nishikawa, et al. 1982. Government Support for Basic and Applied Research. In Science Policy Perspectives: USA–Japan, ed. Arthur Gerstenfeld, 125–173. New York, London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, James Truslow. 1931. The Epic of America. New Brunswick, London: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Bal, Mieke. 2002. Travelling Concepts in the Humanities. A Rough Guide. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  4. Banchoff, Thomas. 2002. Institutions, Inertia and European Union Research Policy. Journal of Common Market Studies 40: 1–21.Google Scholar
  5. Barrow, Clyde W. 1996. The Strategy of Selective Excellence. Redesigning Higher Education for Global Competition in a Postindustrial Society. Higher Education 31: 447–469.Google Scholar
  6. Barzun, Jacques. 1960. The Place and Prize of Excellence. The Phi Kappa Journal 40: 3–14.Google Scholar
  7. Becker, Gary S. 1993. Human Capital. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bell, Daniel. 1996. Die nachindustrielle Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Campus.Google Scholar
  9. Bell, Daniel. 2008. The Coming of Post-industrial Society. A Venture in Social Forecasting. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Bertocci, Peter A. 1960. Education and the Vision of Excellence. Boston, MA: Boston University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bevir, Mark. 2008. What is Genealogy? Journal of the Philosophy of History 2: 263–275.Google Scholar
  12. Bleiklie, Ivar. 2005. Organizing Higher Education in a Knowledge Society. Higher Education 49: 31–59.Google Scholar
  13. Brady, Michelle. 2012. Ethnographies of Neoliberal Governmentalities: From the Neoliberal Apparatus to Neoliberalism and Governmental Assemblages. Foucault Studies 18: 11–33.Google Scholar
  14. Bud, Robert. 1993. The Uses of Life: A History of Biotechnology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Bud, Robert. 2013. Framed in the Public Sphere: Tools for the Conceptual History of “Applied Science”—A Review Paper. History of Science 51: 413–433.Google Scholar
  16. Burroughs, Martha C. 1977. Restraints on Excellence. Our Waste of Gifted Children. Lewiston: Orchards Printing.Google Scholar
  17. Bush, Vannevar. 1945. ScienceThe Endless Frontier. A Report to the President on a Program for Postwar Scientific Research. ACLS Humanities E-Book (reprinted 1999).Google Scholar
  18. Calvert, Jane. 2006. What’s Special About Basic Research. Science, Technology, and Human Values 31: 199–220.Google Scholar
  19. Carter, Jimmy. 1979. The State of the Union Annual Message to the Congress. 25 January 1979. Accessed 27 Feb 2016.
  20. Ceccarelli, Leah. 2013. On the Frontier of Science: An American Rhetoric of Exploration and Exploitation. Michigan: Michigan State University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Chamberlin, Thomas Chrowder, Franz Boas, et al. 1903. How Can Endowments be Used Most Effectively For Scientific Research? Science 17: 571–583.Google Scholar
  22. Coleman, William. 1966. Science and Symbol in the Turner Frontier Hypothesis. The American Historical Review 72: 22–49.Google Scholar
  23. Commission, European. 1996. Proposal for a Council Decision Adapting for the Second Time Decision 94/268/Euratom Concerning the Framework Programme of Activities in the Field of Research and Training for the European Atomic Energy Community (1994–98). Brussels, 31.1.1996: COM(96) 12 final.Google Scholar
  24. Commission, European. 2003. Provisions for Implementing Networks of Excellence. Accessed 21 July 2017.
  25. Commission, European. 2004. Europe and Basic Research. Communication from Commission. Brussels, 14.01.2004: COM(2004) 9 final.Google Scholar
  26. Commission, European. 2005. Proposal for a Decision of The European Parliament and of the Council Concerning the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (2007–2013). Brussels, 6.4.2005: COM(2005) 119 final.Google Scholar
  27. Connell, W.F. 1959. Excellence in General Education. The School Review 67: 375–386.Google Scholar
  28. Council of the European Union. 2004. 2624th Council Meeting Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry and Research), 25 and 26 November 2004. Brussels: 14687/04.Google Scholar
  29. Council of the European Union. 2006. Decision of 19 December 2006 Concerning the Specific Programme: Ideas Implementing the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for Research, Technological Development And Demonstration Activities (2007 to 2013). Brussels: 2006/972/EC.Google Scholar
  30. Cronon, William. 1987. Revisiting the Vanishing Frontier: The Legacy of Frederick Jackson Turner. The Western Historical Quarterly 18: 157–176.Google Scholar
  31. Cummings, William K. 1990. The Culture of Effective Science: Japan and the United States. Minerva 28: 426–445.Google Scholar
  32. Darmon, Gérard. 1997. European Science Foundation. Towards a History. In History of European Scientific and Technological Cooperation, eds. John Krige, and Luca Guzzetti, 380–403. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  33. Daston, Lorraine. 2009. Science Studies and the History of Science. Critical Inquiry 35: 798–813.Google Scholar
  34. de Boer, Harry, Jürgen Enders, and Uwe Schimank. 2007. On the Way towards New Public Management? The Governance of University Systems in England, the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany. In New Forms of Governance in Research Organizations, ed. Dorothea Jansen, 137–152. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  35. Drucker, Peter F. 1993. Die postkapitalistische Gesellschaft. Düsseldorf: Econ.Google Scholar
  36. Dunleavy, Patrick, and Christopher Hood. 1994. From Old Public Administration to New Public Management. Public Money and Management 14: 9–16.Google Scholar
  37. Ederer, Florian, and Gustavo Manso. 2012. Is Pay-for-Performance Detrimental to Innovation? Management Science 59: 1496–1513.Google Scholar
  38. European Council. 2000. Lisbon Council 23 and 24 march 2000. Presidency Conclusions, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  39. Fagerberg, Jan. 2005. Innovation: A Guide to the Literature. In The Oxford Handbook of Innovation, eds. Jan Fagerberg, David Mowery, and Richard R. Nelson, 1–26. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Ferlie, Ewan, Christine Musselin, and Gianluca Andresani. 2008. The Steering of Higher Education Systems: A Public Management Perspective. Higher Education 56: 325–348.Google Scholar
  41. Flink, Tim. 2016. Die Entstehung des Europäischen Forschungsrates: Marktimperative, Geostrategie, Frontier Research. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft.Google Scholar
  42. Flink, Tim, and David Kaldewey. 2018. The New Production of Legitimacy: STI Policy Discourses Beyond the Contract Metaphor. Research Policy 47: 14–22.Google Scholar
  43. Foucault, Michel. 1984. Nietzsche, Genealogy, History. In The Foucault Reader. An Introduction to Foucault’s Thoughts, ed. Paul Rabinow, 76–100. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  44. Foucault, Michel. 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979, 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  45. Gardner, John Walter. 1961. Excellence: Can We be Equal And Excellent Too? New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  46. Gavroglu, Kostas. 2012. Science Popularization, Hegemonic Ideology and Commercialized Science. Journal of History of Science and Technology 6: 85–99.Google Scholar
  47. Gerstenfeld, Arthur (ed.). 1982. Science Policy Perspectives: USA–Japan. New York, London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  48. Gibbons, Michael, Camille Limoges, Helga Nowotny, Simon Schwartzman, Peter Scott, and Martin Trow. 1994. The New Production of Knowledge. The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  49. Giroux, Henry A. 2014. Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education. Chicago: Haymarket Books.Google Scholar
  50. Godin, Benoît. 2006. The Linear Model of Innovation: The Historical Construction of an Analytical Framework. Science, Technology, and Human Values 31: 639–667.Google Scholar
  51. Godin, Benoît. 2017. Models of Innovation. The History of an Idea. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  52. Graubard, Stephen Richards. 1962. Excellence and leadership in a democracy. Boston: American Academy of Arts and Sciences.Google Scholar
  53. Guston, David H. 2000. Between Politics and Science. Assuring the Integrity and Productivity of Research. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Guzzetti, Luca. 1995. A Brief History of European Union Research Policy. Luxembourg: European Communities.Google Scholar
  55. Hamilton, Thomas Hale. 1964. The Democracy of Excellence: A Collection of Addresses. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  56. Harris, William C. (ed.). 2005. Frontier Research: The European Challenge. High-Level Expert Group Report to the European Commission. Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  57. Herbst, Marcel. 2007. The Production-Morphology Nexus of Research Universities: The Atlantic Split. Higher Education Policy 17: 5–21.Google Scholar
  58. Hine, Robert V., and John Mack Faragher. 2000. The American West: A New Interpretive History. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Hobbs, William Herbert. 1903. The Frontiers of Physiography. Science 18: 538–540.Google Scholar
  60. Hofstadter, Richard, and Seymour Martin Lipset. 1968. Turner and the Sociology of the Frontier. New York, London: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  61. Hoover, Herbert. 1922. American Individualism. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page and Company.Google Scholar
  62. Hyvärinen, Matti. 2013. Travelling Metaphors, Transforming Concepts. In The Travelling Concepts of Narrative, eds. Mari Hatavara, Lars-Christer Hydén, and Matti Hyvärinen, 13–42. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  63. Irvine, John, and Ben Martin. 1984. Foresight in Science. Picking the Winners. London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  64. Jackson, Douglas N. and J.P. Rushton (eds.). 1987. Scientific Excellence. New York: Origins and Assessment.Google Scholar
  65. Jacob, Merle. 2005. Boundary Work in Contemporary Science Policy: A Review. Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation 23: 195–207.Google Scholar
  66. Jasanoff, Sheila. 2000. Reconstructing the Past, Constructing the Present: Can Science Studies and the History of Science Live Happily Ever After? Social Studies of Science 30: 621–631.Google Scholar
  67. Kaldewey, David. 2013. Wahrheit und Nützlichkeit. Selbstbeschreibungen der Wissenschaft zwischen Autonomie und gesellschaftlicher Relevanz. Bielefeld: transcript.Google Scholar
  68. Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. 1960. The New Frontier. Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech; 15.07.1960, Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles. Accessed 15 Feb 2016.
  69. Kevles, Daniel Jerome. 1977. The National Science Foundation and the Debate Over Postwar Research Policy, 1942–1945: A Political Interpretation of ‘Science—The Endless Frontier’. Isis 68: 5–26.Google Scholar
  70. Keyworth, George A. 1982. The Role of Science in a New Era of Competition. Science 217: 606–609.Google Scholar
  71. Kline, Ronald. 1995. Construing “Technology” as “Applied Science”: Public Rhetoric of Scientists and Engineers in the United States, 1880–1945. Isis 86: 194–221.Google Scholar
  72. Krige, John. 2000. NATO and the Strengthening of Western Science in the Post-Sputnik Era. Minerva 38: 81–108.Google Scholar
  73. Lamar, Howard Roberts. 2000. The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  74. Lloyd Spencer, Daniel. 1970. Technology Gap in Perspective—Strategy of International Technology Transfer. New York, Washington: Spartan Books.Google Scholar
  75. Maasen, Sabine. 2008. Exzellenz oder Transdisziplinarität: Zur Gleichzeitigkeit zweier Qualitätsdiskurse. In Exzellente Wissenschaft. Das Problem, der Diskurs, das Programm und die Folgen, ed. Exzellente Wissenschaft, 23–32. Bonn: IFQ-Working Paper 4.Google Scholar
  76. Maasen, Sabine, and Peter Weingart. 2000. Metaphors and the Dynamics of Knowledge. London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  77. Majone, Giandomenico. 2006. The Common Sense of European Integration. Journal of European Public Policy 13: 607–626.Google Scholar
  78. Merton, Robert King. 1973. ‘Recognition’ and ‘Excellence’. Instructive Ambiguities. In The Sociology of Science. Theoretical and Empirical Investigation, ed. Robert King Merton, 419–438. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Michaels, Ed, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod. 2001. The War for Talent. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  80. Moore, Samuel, Cameron Neylon, Martin Paul Eve, Daniel Paul O’Donnell, et al. 2017. “Excellence R Us”: University Research and the Fetishisation of Excellence. Palgrave Communications 3: 1–13.Google Scholar
  81. National Science Foundation. 1965. The Fourteenth Annual Report of the National Science Foundation—1964. Arlington, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  82. National Science Teachers Association. 1961. Planning for Excellence in High School Science. Washington, DC: NSTA.Google Scholar
  83. National Commission on Excellence and Education. 1983. A Nation at Risk. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  84. Naidoo, Rajani. 2016. The Competition Fetish in Higher Education: Varieties, Animators and Consequences. British Journal of Sociology of Education 37: 1–10.Google Scholar
  85. Nathan, Richard. 1999. Japan celebrates Ten Years of the HFSP. Nature Medicine 5: 7–8.Google Scholar
  86. Nature. 1994. What Strategy for European Science? Nature 372: 389–390.Google Scholar
  87. Nature. 1995. A Research Council for Europe? Nature 378: 321.Google Scholar
  88. Nelson, Richard R. 1971. ‘World Leadership’, the ‘Technological Gap’ and National Science Policy. Minerva 9: 386–399.Google Scholar
  89. Neumann, Birgit, and Ansgar Nünning (eds.). 2012. Travelling Concepts for the Study of Culture. Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  90. Nowotny, Helga. 2006. Real Science is Excellent Science—How to Interpret Post-academic Science, Mode 2 and the ERC. Journal of Science Communication 5: 1–3.Google Scholar
  91. Odagiri, Hiroyuki, and Akira Goto. 1993. The Japanese System of Innovation: Past, Present, and Future. In National Innovation Systems: A Comparative Analysis, ed. Richard R. Nelson, 76–114. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Peterson, John, and Margaret Sharp. 1997. Technology Policy in the European Union. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  93. Peters, Tom, and Robert H. Waterman. 1982. In Search of Excellence. Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  94. Peyre, Henri. 1962. Excellence and Leadership. Has Western Europe any Lessons for us? Daedalus 90: 628–651.Google Scholar
  95. Pielke Jr., Roger. 2012. Basic Research as a Political Symbol. Minerva 50(3): 339–361.Google Scholar
  96. Rescher, Nicholas. 2015. Excellence Examined. Mind and Society 14: 85–97.Google Scholar
  97. Ricken, Norbert. 2009. Elite und Exzellenz. Machttheoretische Analysen zum neuen Wissenschaftsdiskurs. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik 55: 194–210.Google Scholar
  98. Rip, Arie. 2010. Protected Spaces of Science. Their Emergence and Further Evolution in a Changing World. In Science in the Context of Application. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, No. 274, eds. Martin Carrier, and Alfred Nordmann, 197–220. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  99. Rip, Arie. 2002. Regional Innovation Systems and the Advent of Strategic Science. Journal of Technology Transfer 27: 123–131.Google Scholar
  100. Rockefeller Brothers Fund. 1958. The Pursuit of Excellence. Education and the Future of America. The Rockefeller report on education. Panel report V of special studies project. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  101. Rosenberg, Nathan. 1991. Critical Issues in Science Policy Research. Research Policy 18: 335–346.Google Scholar
  102. Rushing, Janice Hocker. 1986. Mythic Evolution of ‘The New Frontier’ in Mass Mediated Rhetoric. Critical Studies in Mass Communication 3: 265–296.Google Scholar
  103. Russell, I.C. 1904. Research in State Universities. Science 19: 841–854.Google Scholar
  104. Sauder, Michael, and Wendy Espeland. 2009. The Discipline of Rankings: Tight Coupling and Organizational Change. American Sociological Review 74: 63–82.Google Scholar
  105. Schauz, Désirée. 2014. What is Basic Research? Insights from Historical Semantics. Minerva 52(3): 273–328.Google Scholar
  106. Schauz, Désirée. 2015. Wissenschaftsgeschichte und das Revival der Begriffsgeschichte. NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 23: 53–63.Google Scholar
  107. Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Jacques. 1968. The American Challenge. London: Hamilton.Google Scholar
  108. Shapin, Steven. 2012. The Ivory Tower. The History of a Figure of Speech and its Cultural Uses. British Journal for the History of Science 45: 1–27.Google Scholar
  109. Shaw, W.N. 1903. Methods of Meteorological Investigation. Science 18: 487–497.Google Scholar
  110. Slaughter, Sheila, and Gary Rhoades. 2004. Academic Capitalism and the New Economy. Markets, State, and Higher Education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  111. Somers, Margaret R. 1994. The Narrative Constitution of Identity: A Relational and Network Approach. Theory and Society 23: 605–649.Google Scholar
  112. Sørensen, Mads, Carter Bloch, and Mitchell Young. 2016. Excellence in the Knowledge-Based Economy: From Scientific to Research Excellence. European Journal of Higher Education 6: 217–236.Google Scholar
  113. Steinbicker, Jochen. 2010. Daniel Bell: Die Post-industrielle Gesellschaft als Wissensgesellschaft. In Handbuch Wissensgesellschaft: Theorien, Themen und Probleme, eds. Anina Engelhardt, and Laura Kajetzke, 27–34. Bielefeld: transcript.Google Scholar
  114. Stuckey, Mary E. 2011. The Donner Party and the rhetoric of Westward expansion. Rhetoric and Public Affairs 14: 229–260.Google Scholar
  115. Tijssen, Robert J.W. 2003. Scoreboards of research excellence. Research Evaluation 12: 91–103.Google Scholar
  116. Turner, Frederick Jackson. 1893. The Significance of the Frontier in American History. In The Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1893, ed. American Historical Association, 199–227. Washington: AHA.Google Scholar
  117. Turner, Frederick Jackson. 1921. The Frontier in American History. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  118. US Department of Education. 2013. Four Pillars of No Child Left Behind.
  119. von Hentig, Hartmut. 1960. Die Schule zwischen Bewahrung und Bewährung. Eine amerikanische Besinnung auf die Maßstäbe eines modernen Bildungswesens. Klett: Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  120. Weingart, Peter. 1997. From “Finalization” to “Mode 2”: Old Wine in New Bottles? Social Science Information 36: 591–613.Google Scholar
  121. Whitley, Richard. 2011. Changing Governance and Authority Relations in the Public Sciences. Minerva 49(4): 359–385.Google Scholar
  122. Whyte, William Hollingsworth. 1956. The Organization Man. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  123. Young, Michael Dunlop. 1958. The Rise of Meritocracy. London: Thames & Hudson.Google Scholar
  124. Zuckerman, Harriet. 1977. Scientific elite. Nobel Laureates in the United States. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Research Center Genealogy of TodayCarl von Ossietzky Universität OldenburgOldenburgGermany

Personalised recommendations