Book section Open Access
Excellence in research is a situated concept: it does not reflect any universal trait but a concrete need for differentiation issued from requirements of research institutions and of research policy. Excellence is a socially structured concept; it is as well a socially structuring concept. Characterising excellence and applying it to academic decision-making, particularly referred to individuals, has deep consequences on the research done. Even if this is present all over the world, such consequences are particularly strong in low- and medium-income countries, which generally have comparatively weak scientific communities. In such countries, a universalistic and quantified conceptualisation of excellence is usually put forward as a way to push researchers to narrow the research productivity gap with the highly industrialised countries. The effect of this trend in the building of research agendas may be counterproductive in terms of putting research at the service of developmental goals. The chapter analyses these issues in general and discusses in particular the experience of building alternative practices of research evaluation at the University Research Council of the public university in Uruguay.