Output based funding system viewed from practitioners' perspective : the case of University of Nordland
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Output based funding system is used by governments to channel research funding according to ex post assessment of institution’s research output and education results. This thesis attempts to assess output based funding system from practitioners’ perspectives at University of Nordland. It focuses upon ethical challenges and conflicts of interest associated with the output based funding system. Data collected based on 15 interviews and relevant documents issued by Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Accountability, principal-agent theory and new public management perspectives, are used as frame of references and qualitative research method is utilized. The main findings of the thesis identify the following ethical challenges and conflicts of interest associated to OBFS: People at the university are confronted with ethical challenges when making decisions whether or not to focus on areas that are measurable by the performance indicators in order to increase the financial returns to the institution and publication points to the researcher. Because some researchers would like to extend their focus to areas that they see fit to safeguard the fundamental values of the institution even if it is not measureable by the indicators to secure funding. Many researchers are concerned that free research could disappear slowly if the focus is only to the research areas where publication points are scored. The much higher financial reward attached to external funding poses an ethical challenge when decision makers have to consider to go after larger financial proceeds from EU projects by depriving free research or conduct pioneering, critical and creative research to enhance the research diversity as well as fostering national and cultural identities. In the sense that people at universities are facing difficult choices between their economic needs and weighting the string attached with external funding. e.g. matching targeted areas of research. Conflicts of interest emerge between the administration and researchers when they seek external funding because from the managerial accountability perspective the administration has to pressure researchers to earn publication points to augment their budget, which means to focus on areas that are measurable by the indicators. Whereas from the personal accountability perspective, the researchers would like to do research in areas they would like to study because they would like to choose where to spend their time as they are not directly responsible for the financial health of the institution. Conflicts of interest emerge between the Ministry of education and the researchers when it comes to publication points because from the political accountability perspective, the ministry would like to have stronger scrutiny of articles so that to avoid bias and criticisms when they evaluate the articles to decide on publication points. Whereas, researchers, once they deliver their articles would like to avoid the time spent in explaining details of their articles and lengthy consultations that follow including phone calls and e-mails. They would prefer to use their time to develop another research article or similar of their interest. Conflicts of interest also emerge between the Administration and the researchers when it comes to dissemination of research findings. From the managerial accountability perspective, administration would like to see researchers do more research on measurable projects to supplement its budget. Whereas, from personal accountability and in some cases from professional accountability perspective, researcher would like to deliver their findings to the end users to positively change way of life because they don’t believe findings are made to be shelved. Conflicts of interest emerge between the administration and the researcher from the principal-agent theory perspective when the goals of the administration differ from the goals of the researcher. For example, the administration (acting as principal) would like to see researchers conduct research that generate income to the institution. Whereas, the researchers (acting as an agent) could have different goals may be to conduct free research or carry out national and cultural identity to be relevant to the society without paying attention to the financial interest of the principal.
Masteroppgave i bedriftsøkonomi - Universitetet i Nordland, 2012