A guidebook to the REF for the shameless academic

Christmas is coming, the goose is acquiring excess fat and, after a lengthy wait, your REF benefits are on their way. Will you be merrily stuffing your face with turkey at the faculty Christmas meal, or shamefully struggling through a slice of humble pie? Only time will inform, but meanwhile, I’ll distract you with my idiot’s guidebook to REF success.

REF, which stands for Analysis Excellence Framework, is the way that the Uk assesses academics’ investigation output. It performs like this: you submit 4 publications from the preceding 5 years to a panel of authorities who will then skim-read through them and judge you mercilessly. Your long term funding depends on their judgment.

If you consider that appears like a rather incomprehensible and misguided evaluation process, you’d most likely be appropriate, which is why the REF has acquired so considerably flak. It also seems that unscrupulous universities have been able to game the technique. One commentator managed to muster a “partial, experienced, cautious defence” of the procedure, but the all round picture hardly inspires self confidence.

Investigation, investigation, analysis

At its core, REF is all about research. The greatest tips consequently is to make certain that you do plenty of it. While elsewhere time is cash, in academia time is research, so we want to get you some time.

Initial and foremost, cease all non-impactful actions, particularly teaching. Ideally you should abandon your college students completely, but you can often palm your commitments off on gullible colleagues, praising their skills and inviting them to give guest lectures to your classes. Otherwise, simply skip the teaching, demand submission of a paper only, and give all your students As or Bs irrespective of good quality (this will also save you time on marking). At the quite least you should quit responding to pupil emails and cancel all workplace hours.

If you completely should educate, at least amuse by yourself and make it as lower-energy as achievable. 1 US-based mostly academic, for illustration, offers a course entitled Wasting time on the internet, the syllabus for which mandates “distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting”.

In the occasion that you locate your self stranded without any publications, you can nonetheless consider a stab at REF success by just churning out a couple of semi-incomprehensible stream of consciousness pieces. There is usually a tiny chance that the panellists will be so baffled that they assume that you are a bona fide 4-star academic whose writing is beyond the comprehension of their meagre minds.

Be strategic

Do not publish a book or extended monograph: the REF tends to make no distinction in between research outputs, so there is no incentive to undertake long-term projects. Also don’t bother with risky, visionary or imaginative tasks except if you can be completely specified that you will get a publication out of it. No publication indicates no impact.

Publish only in the greatest identified journals. Aim large: Nature, Science, the American Journal of Potato Research or similarly superb journals are very good alternatives.

Decide on the panel that you submit to wisely. It turns out that the interdisciplinarians may possibly have an advantage right here as they can pick and choose: geography department exhibiting you no really like? Send your stuff to sociology alternatively. If you are a legal researcher, why not throw the chemists a curveball and send your study their way?

Have an impact

Once you have done your investigation, you need to create an unhealthy obsession with impact. Most of us have reflected on our h-index at some stage, but if you want to be actually influential you need to have to operate on your Kardashian index. This implies amassing a huge Twitter following, thereby being ostensibly influential while truly contributing very tiny to society. Of course, you shouldn’t neglect your h-index completely just artificially inflate it by citing yourselves 50-odd instances in every paper.

Last but not least, you need to have to stand out from the crowd. I’m not confident how this helps, but you will at least have a bit of fun. Get by yourself a Television display or create a cookery column for an aspirational magazine. Wear a snazzy hat, get a badass tattoo, and bear in mind to dress for academic achievement.

There you have it. Now all there is to do is make a cup of tea, grab by yourself a snack, and wait… In the meantime, send your amusing #REFtips to @AcademiaObscura.

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