Project Title: Characterizing Researchers’ Research Agenda-setting: an International Perspective across Fields of Knowledge

  • Funding Scheme : Early Career Scheme
  • Project Number : 27608516
  • Principal Investigator: Dr Alves Horta, Hugo Duarte
  • Abstract:

Research activities are key to knowledge creation, innovation and socio-economic development. However, a research gap exists concerning the knowledge production processes related to research agenda-setting by individual researchers, although it is known to drive the knowledge produced by researchers and shape their careers. This proposed study will contribute to a better understanding of the decision-making process researchers employ in choosing a research agenda. Its analysis will focus on three main research questions: 1) What factors influence the choice of specific research topics? 2) What leads researchers to opt for research agendas in a single rather than multiple fields of knowledge? 3) What explains researchers’ choices of ‘riskier’ rather than ‘safer’ research agendas? Guided by this set of questions, research agenda-setting will be studied in the context of researchers working in both academic (e.g. universities) and non-academic (e.g. public research institutes) research settings worldwide.

The study will draw on Bandura’s social cognition theory as a conceptual framework from which to develop a more specific theoretical framework for research agenda-setting. It will use a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative (a survey administered to the world population of authors published in the past five years in the SCOPUS database) and qualitative methods (interviews: narrative inquiry). A purposely designed crawler software to gather data will also be developed. Four main factors will guide the analysis: field of knowledge (OECD’s six fields of knowledge), country, research environment and career stage. The study’s findings will lead to a novel conceptual perspective on the motivation behind researchers’ contributions to knowledge accumulation and advancement. They will also have key policy implications for policymakers and research team managers in and out of academia. For policymakers, particularly those working in research funding agencies, a deeper understanding of research agenda-setting by researchers will illuminate how researchers position themselves for different research funding schemes (e.g. grants, prizes, secondments, fellowships). They will also benefit from a better understanding of the decisions involved in ‘riskier’ or multidisciplinary agendas relating to each funding scheme. For research team managers, the study’s analysis will provide a clearer picture of two issues. The first relates to the impact of such exogenous variables as organisational incentives, institutional support, power structures, funding availability and time constraints on the research decision-making of researchers, and the second focuses on the relation between those variables and such endogenous variables as personality and learning styles when researchers are determining which research agenda to pursue.