This special section on research funding and the dynamics of science deals with some of the most relevant issues of a 2-day workshop organized by the Sociology of Science and Technology Network and the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University. Workshop topic, scientifically and socially relevant, was very attractive to science and technology studies community, which resulted in eight thematically consistent workshop sessions with 31 papers presented. The workshop attracted 55 participants of different professional, institutional, and geographical background from 13 countries. Excellent and provocative keynotes ‘Authority structures in research funding’ and ‘Science and the paradox of funding: competition and the changing practices of research funders’ were held by eminent researchers Jochen Gläser and Maria Nedeva, respectively. These talks offered a wide sociological perspective and inspired productive discussion. Overall, the workshop has offered a deeper insight into the relation between research funding and science dynamics, especially academic performance, evaluation outcomes, careers patterns, scientific competition, and epistemic outcomes. In addition, the workshop had a relevant methodological contribution—developing the use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Policy implications of the presented research could be relevant, but depend on decision makers in various countries.

In this special section we present three empirical papers that were presented in our workshop. These papers cannot and do not represent the whole thematic and research range of contributions to the workshop. However, they are based on the studies conducted in different countries with different research (funding) systems and different techno-scientific and socio-cultural systems as well (Spain, Norway, and The Netherlands). They also researched the impact of funding on different social levels: on the organizational, university level (Cruz-Castro, Benitez-Amado, and Sanz- Menéndez), on the group level of young scientists, PhD candidates (Waaijer, Heyer, and Kuli), and on the individual level (Bloch and Schneider). Their research range from the impact of research funding on organizational responses to scientific excellence (Cruz-Castro et al.), on scientists’ publication practices (Bloch and Schneider) and on careers and daily practices of young researchers (Waaijer et al.). Therefore in our opinion these papers present at least a very relevant and interesting segment of the relation of research funding and science dynamics.

Laura Cruz-Castro, Alberto Benitez-Amado, and Luis Sanz-Menéndez study the effects or impacts of the European Research Council (ERC) on organizational actors. As the ERC is not only intended to support frontier and risky research carried out by individuals but also to transform the way in which universities and research organizations perceive excellence, they focus on universities’ responses. Their paper ‘the proof of the pudding: university responses to the European Research Council’ positions a sample of 18 Spanish universities in an empirical taxonomy constructed along the dimensions identified with four ideal types of organizational responses: committed, hesitant, operational, and neglected. Their results show that university responses to the excellence programme of the ERC are not homogeneous. Among the attributes associated with committed university responses we find: research orientation, links with international funding sources, and the existence of more open and flexible human resource policies. Conversely, low specialization, lack of critical mass by area, a strong teaching orientation, and high internal fragmentation are associated more with neglected university responses.

In their paper ‘Performance-based funding models and researcher behavior: an analysis of the influence of the Norwegian Publication Indicator at the individual level’, Carter Bloch and Jesper Schneider seek an empirical answer to the question whether the aggregate developments mask changes in publication activity at the individual level. This is of crucial importance in studying the influence of expanding meritocratic funding systems on researchers’ actual publication practices and behaviour. The study is based on the publication data of researchers active over 2004–12 period. Data were gathered within Norwegian system for documenting academic publishing for the four main universities accounting for 80% of total publications. The authors find that average publication productivity and number of co-authors have increased contrary to the decrease of productivity in fractional counts (per co-author) and average publication points as impact indicators. The main issue is a policy implication of a potential systemic tension, which might encourage researchers to reduce collaboration to receive more publication points.

The third paper ‘Effects of appointment types on the availability of research infrastructure, work pressure, stress, and career attitudes of PhD candidates of a Dutch university’ addresses the funding of PhD candidates, the first step that should be taken in pursuing an academic career, and the impact on the daily research practice. By classifying PhD candidates in the Netherlands the authors, Cathelijn Waaijer, Anne Heyer, and Sara Kuli, show the existence of different types of legal status and remuneration for PhD candidates who are essentially expected to deliver the same output: a doctoral dissertation. By surveying 218 PhD candidates they compared the experiences of PhD candidates with an employment contract and non-employed PhD candidates in The Netherlands. The authors measured several aspects of the research infrastructure (financial situation, supervision, and access to office facilities), work pressure, stress, and career attitudes of PhD candidates. Their findings indicate that type of appointment affects the PhD experience with non-employed PhD candidates funded by scholarships at a disadvantaged position compared to employed PhD candidates. They have less funding for research, a (much) lower personal income, and less access to office facilities such as a desk and a computer. Furthermore, they experience stress more often.

Finally, we hope that the topics, social and scientific contexts as well as research approaches and results of these empirical studies, though not fully reflecting the complexity and relevance of research funding as research theme, will be of interest to our colleagues from the field of science and technology studies.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com