This question is the theme of a recent book by Richard Watermeyer (2019) which focuses on the impact that competitive accountability has on the capacity of academics to act as public intellectuals. In eight intense chapters, Watermeyer shows how a culture of increased competitiveness, based on performance metrics, has given rise to stress and anxiety among academics, who struggle to legitimise their work within marketised and corporatized universities. Watermeyer’s answer to the above-posed question is ubiquitous: competitive accountability is more than evil; it destroys the work of university people who are aiming to meet research impact devices at the expense of their primary mission of being public intellectuals. The underlying analysis is provocative, as it fundamentally questions taken for granted ways in which research is assessed, not only in the UK but also in many other Western countries. Scholars in public policy, education policy and public management and accounting can benefit from taking notice of this book, but this does not mean that all of Watermeyer’s ideas are convincing, as will be explicated.
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