Co-option, control and criticality: The politics of relevance regimes for the future of political science

Justyna Bandola-Gill, Matthew Flinders, Alexandra Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last 20 years, the notion of relevance vis-à-vis political science became not only a subject of academic debates but also a domain of practice, largely due to the developments in the research funding, increasingly referred to as the 'impact agenda'. In this article, we explore how the growing focus on socio-economic impact as the assessment criterion of research funding shapes the discipline of political science itself—its knowledge production, dissemination and the emergent forms of accountability of political scientists. The article presents the results of a major international study that has examined the emergence of ‘impact agendas’ across 33 countries. We report on the changing idea of relevance of political science through the lens of its strategic ambiguity and historical evolution. We then explore these broader trends through an in-depth analysis of the UK as an ‘extreme case’ and a blueprint for funding system reforms. These developments, we argue, are not a mere funding policy innovation but rather a paradigm-level change, reshaping the position of political science in society as well as the types of scholarship that are possible and incentivised.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Political Science
Early online date5 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2021


  • higher education
  • impact agenda
  • knowledge exchange
  • new public management
  • political science
  • research funding


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