Science is a meritocracy

The scientific elite - a closed society?

Abstract

Numerous reform measures in the German science and higher education landscape, above all the excellence strategy, are intended to contribute, among other things, to the formation and promotion of internationally visible academic elites. All of these reform efforts are negotiated under the guiding principle of performance and excellence. Scientific achievement, it is suggested, is the only relevant criterion for success and thus for a position at the top of science. While science is evidently assumed to be achievement elites in the true sense of the word, it is nonetheless an open secret that too Non-meritocratic aspects are effective in scientific careers, as is evident from the still strong underrepresentation of women. In contrast, social origin is largely ignored as a possible influencing factor on access to top scientific positions. To what extent is the scientific elite a closed society? Biographical data are used to take a closer look at the social profile of the German scientific elite between 1945 and 2013. The scientific elite is divided into two groups: On the one hand there is the prestige elite with the most highly valued scientific luminaries. On the other are the holders of the highest offices in science - the position elite. The findings show that social background is a decisive factor for advancing into the German scientific elite. The vast majority of elite members come from highly privileged family backgrounds, whereby a high socio-economic background is important for access to the elite of positions, whereas for the prestige elite an academic home seems to be particularly advantageous. In the course of time, a social opening can be ascertained for both groups, although there is a tendency towards renewed social closure on the part of the position elite. The findings not only question the propagated meritocratic principle of science, but are becoming more explosive in view of the current structural reforms and also raise strong doubts that the largely socially closed scientific elite will develop into a principally open society.

Bibliography

Beaufaÿs, S. 2003: How are scientists made? Observations on the mutual constitution of sex and science. Bielefeld: Transcript.
Beaufaÿs, S. 2005: Does achievement lead to elite? Promotion of young talent and excellence concept. gen-der… politics… online, 1–6.
Beaufaÿs, S., Krais, B. 2005: Doing Science - Doing Gender. The production of scientists and the reproduction of power relations in the scientific field. Feminist Studies, No. 1, 82–99.
Bourdieu, P. 1975: The Specificity of the Scientific Field and the Social Conditions of the Progress of Reason. Social Science Information, Vol. 14, Issue 6, 19–47.
Bourdieu, P. 1991: The Peculiar History of Scientific Reason. Sociological Forum, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 3–26.
Bourdieu, P. 1992: Homo academicus. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Bourdieu, P. 1998: On the Use of Science. For a clinical sociology of the scientific field. Constance: UVK.
Bourdieu, P. 2003: The Subtle Differences. Critique of Social Judgment. 30th edition Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Bourdieu, P. 2004: The State Nobility. Constance: UVK.
Bourdieu, P., et al. 1981: title and position. About the reproduction of social power. Frankfurt am Main: European publishing house.
Dreitzel, H. P. 1962: Concept of the elite and social structure. A sociological conceptual analysis. Stuttgart: Enke.
Enders, J., Bornmann, L. 2001: A career with a doctorate? Education, professional development and professional success of doctoral candidates. Frankfurt am Main: Campus.
Engler, S. 2001: “In loneliness and freedom?”. For the construction of the scientific personality on the way to the professorship. Constance: UVK.
Findeisen, I. 2011: Hurdles to excellence. Career levels of young scientists. Wiesbaden: VS publishing house for social sciences.
Gabriel, O. W., et al. (Ed.) 2004: A boom in people's minds? Elites in the modern knowledge society. Düsseldorf: Droste.
Graf, A. 2015: Germany's science elite. Social profile and careers between 1945 and 2013. Frankfurt am Main: Campus.
Hartmann, M. 2002: The myth of the performance elite. Top careers and social origins in business, politics, justice and science. Frankfurt am Main: Campus.
Hartmann, M. 2007: Elites and Power in Europe. An international comparison. Frankfurt am Main: Campus.
Hartmann, M. 2013: Social Inequality - Not an Issue for the Elites? Frankfurt am Main: Campus.
Hoffmann-Lange, U., et al. 1980: Consensus and conflict between leadership groups in the Federal Republic of Germany. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Isserstedt, W., et al. 1986: The social image of the student body in the Federal Republic of Germany. 11th social survey by the German student union. Bad Honnef: Bock.
Jaksztat, S. 2014: Origin of education and doctorate. How does the parental level of education influence the transition to the doctoral phase? Journal for Sociology, Vol. 43, Issue 4, 286–301.
Jungbauer-Gans, M., Gross, C. 2012: Changed Significance of Meritocratic Requirements in Scientific Careers. Die Hochschule, Volume 2, 245-324.
Jungbauer-Gans, M., Gross, C. 2013: Determinants of Success in University Careers. Findings from the Ger-man Academic Labor Market. Journal for Sociology, Vol. 42, Issue 1, 74–92.
Kaelble, H. 1983: Social Mobility and Equal Opportunities in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Germany in an international comparison. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Kath, G. 1952: The social picture of the student body in West Germany and Berlin. Berlin.
Kath, G. 1960: The social picture of the student body in West Germany and Berlin. Summer semester 1959. Bonn: Colloquium Verlag.
Kath, G. 1969: The social picture of the student body in the Federal Republic of Germany. Winter semester 1967/68. Bonn.
Kath, G. 1973: The social picture of students in the Federal Republic of Germany. Results of the 7th social survey by the German Student Union in the 1973 summer semester. Bonn.
Kath, G. 1977: The social picture of the student body in the Federal Republic of Germany. Results of the 8th social survey by the German Student Union in the 1976 summer semester. Frankfurt am Main: German Student Union.
Krais, B. 2000a: The social field of science and gender relations. Theoretical explorations. In B. Krais (ed.), Scientific Culture and Gender Order. About the hidden mechanisms of male dominance in the academic world. Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 31–55.
Krais, B. 2000b: Scientific culture and gender order. About the hidden mechanisms of male dominance in the academic world. Frankfurt am Main.
Lange-Vester, A., Teiwes-Kügler, C. 2013: Between W 3 and Hartz IV. Work situation and perspectives of academic staff. Leverkusen: Barbara Budrich.
Leemann, R. J. 2008: Gender inequalities in academic careers. In P. A. Berger, H. Kahlert (ed.), Institutionalized Inequality. How education blocks opportunities. 2nd edition Weinheim / Munich: Juventa, 179–214.
Lenger, A. 2008: The PhD. A mechanism of reproduction of social inequality. Constance: UVK.
Leuschner, A. 2015: Social Exclusion in Academia through Biases in Methodological Quality Evaluation. On the Situation of Women in Science and Philosophy. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 54, 56–63.
Lind, I. 2004: Promotion or exit? Career paths of women scientists. A research overview. Bielefeld: Little ones.
Merton, R. K. 1985a: The Matthew Effect in Science. In R. K. Merton, Evolution and Change in Research Interests. Essays on the sociology of science. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​147–171.
Merton, R. K. 1985b: The Normative Structure of Science. In Robert K. Merton, Evolution and Change in Research Interests. Essays on the sociology of science. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​86–99.
Merton, R. K. 2010: The Matthew Effect in Science, II. Cumulative Benefit and Symbolism of Intellectual Property. Berliner Journal für Soziologie, Vol. 20, Issue 3, 285–308.
Mills, C. W. 1956: The Power Elite. New York: Oxford University Press.
Möller, C. 2013: How open is the university professorship for social climbers? Exploratory analyzes of the social origins of professors at the universities in North Rhine-Westphalia. Social World, Vol. 64, Issue 4, 341-360.
Möller, C. 2015: Origin counts (almost) always. Social inequalities among university professors. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.
Putnam, R.D. 1976: The Comparative Study of Political Elites. Englewood Cliffs: Prenctice Hall.
Rothböck, S. et al. 1999: The recruitment of the political, economic and scientific elites in Switzerland. Swiss Journal for Sociology, Vol. 25, Issue 3, 459–496.
Schmidt, H. J., Scholz-Reiter, B. November 12, 2015: Do we want to dare to be more elite? The educational republic is discussing the next excellence initiative. Two university presidents argue whether it should continue as before. ZEIT ONLINE, http://www.zeit.de/2015/44/exellenzinitiative-universitaet-pro-contra-elite-allianz-veraenderung (last accessed on January 3rd, 2017).
Schnapp, K.-U. 1997: Social composition of elites and population. In W. P. Bürklin / H. Rebenstorf (ed.), Elites in Germany. Recruitment and Integration. Leverkusen: Leske + Budrich, 69–99.
Schneickert, C. 2013: Student assistants and staff. Constance: UVK.
Federal Statistical Office 1960: Population and Culture. University professor and other scientific staff at the scientific universities in 1960. Wiesbaden.
Zapf, W. 1965: Leadership Groups in West and East Germany. In W. Zapf (ed.), Contributions to the analysis of the German upper class. 2nd edition Munich: Piper, 9–29.
Zuckerman, H. et al. (Ed.) 1992: The Outer Circle. Women in the Scientific Community. New Haven: Yale Uni-versity Press.