Stop evaluating science: A historical-sociological argument

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Although science has been a formidably successful force of social and technological development in the modern era, and a main reason for the wealth and well-being of current societies compared to previous times, a fundamental distrust characterizes its current status in society. According to prevalent discourse, science is insufficiently productive and in need of stricter governance and bureaucratic management, with performance evaluation by the means of quantitative metrics as a key tool to increase efficiency. The basis of this notion appears to be a belief that the key or only purpose of science is to drive economic growth, or sustainable development in combination with economic growth. In this article, these beliefs are analyzed and deconstructed with the help of a theoretical toolbox from the classic sociology of science and recent conceptualizations of economization, democratization, and commodification of scientific knowledge and the institution of science, connecting these beliefs to broader themes of market fundamentalism and to the metric fixation of current society. With the help of a historical-sociological analysis, this article shows that the current ubiquity of performance evaluation in science for the most part is pointless and counterproductive, and that this state of science policy is in dire need of reevaluation in order to secure science’s continued productivity and contribution to social and technological innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-26
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Science Information
Issue number1
Early online date2021 Feb 18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration


  • democratization
  • economization
  • evaluation
  • metric fixation
  • sociology of science


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