The paper aims to determine whether the distribution of funds that prizes the best-performing institutions relatively more has the effect of replicating the Matthew effect within them in terms of personnel policies and allocating proportionally more resources to the best departments to strengthen their output considering the prospect of future assessments. Data from the Italian public university system between 2011 and 2016 as well as the outcomes of the national evaluation of research produced between 2004 and 2010 and between 2011 and 2014 in 14 disciplinary research areas are used. The empirical evidence shows that Italian universities have tended to increase their specialisation in the research areas in which they ranked below or slightly above the national mean, revealing that they chose to try to strengthen the weak sectors through both promotions and new recruitments. The results suggest the existence of a dual policy. When the Ministry of Education, University and Research tries to foster a Matthew effect mechanism, allocating more resources to the best-performing universities, the latter seem to opt to implement a beauty contest strategy to make their weak areas converge towards the national mean. When considering the effects of the recruiting strategies following the national evaluation of research, the results indicate the existence of some Matthew effects, showing that increasing specialisation is more fruitful for the best than for the worst universities.

The strange case of the Matthew effect and beauty contests: Research evaluation and specialisation in Italian universities

matteo migheli
;
roberto zotti
2020

Abstract

The paper aims to determine whether the distribution of funds that prizes the best-performing institutions relatively more has the effect of replicating the Matthew effect within them in terms of personnel policies and allocating proportionally more resources to the best departments to strengthen their output considering the prospect of future assessments. Data from the Italian public university system between 2011 and 2016 as well as the outcomes of the national evaluation of research produced between 2004 and 2010 and between 2011 and 2014 in 14 disciplinary research areas are used. The empirical evidence shows that Italian universities have tended to increase their specialisation in the research areas in which they ranked below or slightly above the national mean, revealing that they chose to try to strengthen the weak sectors through both promotions and new recruitments. The results suggest the existence of a dual policy. When the Ministry of Education, University and Research tries to foster a Matthew effect mechanism, allocating more resources to the best-performing universities, the latter seem to opt to implement a beauty contest strategy to make their weak areas converge towards the national mean. When considering the effects of the recruiting strategies following the national evaluation of research, the results indicate the existence of some Matthew effects, showing that increasing specialisation is more fruitful for the best than for the worst universities.
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Matthew effect; Academic research evaluation; Academic staff specialisation; Distribution of scientific funding
matteo migheli; roberto zotti
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1729937
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