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Conducting Commissioned Research in Neoliberal Academia: The Conditions Evaluations Impose on Research Practice

The article deals with the unease we experience during various commissioned research projects. On the one hand, as social scientists, we feel committed to conducting ‘good research’ that acknowledges quality criteria such as flexibility and transparency and in particular allows for musing and reflexivity to ‘discover’ new aspects of our research topic. On the other hand, we are situated in the context of present-day neoliberal academia. This means that our work is assessed according to a culture of audit characteristic for neoliberal management of universities that values publication indexes and fundamental research. At the same time, universities strive increasingly for third-party funding that favors commissioned research. This article discusses how commissioned research conditions our evaluations and research practice and how these conditions might conflict with the ‘good research’ we hope to conduct.