Fear and loathing in the academy? The role of emotion in response to an impact agenda in the UK and Australia

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The research impact agenda is frequently portrayed through ‘crisis’ accounts whereby academic identity is at risk of a kind of existential unravelling. Amid reports of academics under siege in an environment in which self-sovereignty is traditionally preferred and regulation is resisted, heightened emotionalism, namely fear and dread dominate the discourse. Such accounts belie the complexity of the varying moral dispositions, experiences and attitudes possessed by different individuals and groups in the academic research community. In this article we attempt to examine the role of the affective in response to a particular research policy directive - the impact agenda. In doing so, we reveal the contributing factors affecting the community’s reaction to impact. In cases where personal, moral and disciplinary identities align with the impact agenda, the emotional response is positive and productive. For many academics however, misalignment gives rise to emotional dissonance. We argue that when harnessed, further acknowledgement of the role of emotion in the academy can produce a more socially and morally coherent response to an impact agenda. We review academic responses from the UK and Australia (n=51) and observe a community heavily emotionally invested in what they do, such that threats to academic identity and research are consequently threats to the self.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-568
Number of pages14
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Issue number3
Early online date8 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2017

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