A theoretical model and the results of some exploratory field work in Sweden will be presented. In the model an attempt is made to integrate theories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation with a general systems view of decision making in academic institutions and coordinating bodies. Recent advances in the understanding of conditions under which extrinsic rewards moderate the effects of intrinsic motivation have important implications for practical means of balancing academic autonomy and accountability. Signalling systems giving information about the consequences of academic endeavour can operate quite differently in different systems. Some contrasts between national systems and academic cultures in Australia and Sweden illustrate some of the principles.