Inderscience Publishers

Macrostructures, careers and knowledge production: a neoinstitutionalist approach

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Scientific careers are theoretically and practically important because they link individuals with institutions as well as social structures with knowledge production. These mediating functions have to date not been systematically dealt with. In this article, a neoinstitutionalist framework for the analysis of careers in science is developed. Careers in science are treated as products of overlapping institutions belonging to the different social contexts in which scientists act simultaneously. These contexts (their specialty, society and employment organisation) yield specific institutions that shape different work roles, which can be analytically distinguished. With regard to a specialty's knowledge production, four different career stages (apprentice, colleague, mentor and sponsor) can be distinguished on the basis of dominant work roles. Society's institutions (e.g., language, education and employment system) structure the international specialties, which can be said to consist of national subsets. Organisations provide work roles that integrate knowledge production into the employment system. Job sequences become institutionalised as career lines that structure international internal labour markets. While there is agreement in the literature that academic organisations do not provide internal labour markets, so far it has been neglected that specialties have these properties. The stability of these international internal labour markets currently seems to be endangered because both organisations and specialties can only balance the conflicting demands for fixed-term contracts and permanent positions when they grow. As a conclusion of the theoretical discussion, a research program is outlined.

Keywords: career theory, new institutionalism, scientific communities, scientific labour markets

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