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Research utilisation may well be more imminent on Indonesia’s agenda than the pursuit of its excellence. Against the backdrop of international standardization and measurements of quality or excellence, the central government has become increasingly aware of Indonesia’s apparent lack of scientific productivity. Consequently, it introduced technocratic policies targeted at state universities and other research actors in the hope of pushing academic performance. Research utilisation is also seen as a key in driving an innovation-based economy. This paper scrutinises the varying policies introduced by the Indonesian government and the responding practices within Indonesian academia in the overall pursuit of research productivity and excellence. The aim is to understand the notion of research excellence -and its lack thereof- in the context of an aspiring middle-income country such as Indonesia.