The Missing Link: The implementation of priorities for research, development, and innovation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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The thesis explores the ‘missing link’ in the study of priority-setting for research, development, and innovation (RDI), namely the processes of implementing RDI priorities, and the consequences of these processes. It does so by focusing on how choices, actions, and motivations of implementers of RDI priorities established elsewhere in the policy system enact, or carry out, the priorities, resulting in new conditions for RDI production. Such conditions can be understood as concretizations of the broader, prioritized themes for RDI and ways of organizing RDI within the themes.

The methods, processes, and conditions involved in implementing priorities for RDI on the ‘lower’ levels of decision-making in science policy, such as the agency level, have hitherto received limited attention in science policy research in general, and research on priority-setting in particular. Yet, the tension between what policy-makers (at the top) assume RDI can yield (and how) and what implementers (at the bottom) are interested in and capable of delivering, is likely to emerge where broad RDI priorities are enacted by intermediaries such as funding agencies, industry, and research performers. However, we know little about how implementers of RDI priorities go about making priorities implementable and what that means for the emergence of new conditions for RDI production.

The results of the thesis suggest that priority-setting as enacted can be understood as a sequence of socially and cognitively motivated discretionary choices that stimulate creativity and socialization during the implementation of RDI priorities. The thesis refers to this as a ‘socio-cognitive approach to the implementation of RDI priorities’. In their aggregated form, the discretionary choices, and the interactions they yield, shape new conditions for RDI production on content as well as form on the different levels of the policy system. This suggests that choices, interactions, and new condtions amount to a continuation of steering of RDI production after policy-decisions for RDI are made. It also raises some concerns about how discretion may undercut the legitimacy of RDI investments and negatively affect the ‘optimal’ trajectories of scientific fields (e.g. more significant discoveries and/or improved, complementary knowledge about observed phenomena, etc.). This begs the question if there is a need to govern discretion.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lund University School of Economics and Management, LUSEM
  • Hellström, Tomas, Supervisor
Award date2023 Apr 13
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-8039-506-9
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-8039-507-6
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2023-04-13
Time: 10:15
Place: EC3:211
Faculty opponent
Name: Smit, Jorrit
Title: Dr
Affiliation: University of Leiden

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • Science policy
  • research, development, innovation (RDI)
  • priority-setting
  • implementation
  • street-level discretion
  • street-level bureaucracy


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