REF 2014: why is it this kind of a large deal?

After years of anxiety, in-fighting, nervousness and admin, the day has nearly arrived: on 18 December, the benefits of the newest university study audit will be launched.

The investigation excellence framework (REF), an exercise that assesses the quality of academic research, is a large deal for universities and academics.

The results establish how significantly analysis funding they are granted – there is £2bn a yr up for grabs – and they are employed to establish institutions’ rankings in league tables. A bad functionality can close a division, even though a leading rating indicates regular funding.

154 Uk universities took part in the REF, with special panels reviewing a total of 190,000 research submissions by 52,000 academic personnel.

How does the process perform?

Each and every 6 many years, institutions are asked to submit examples of their greatest research to be assessed by a group of academics and market professionals. Every subject region is awarded up to 4 stars. The process is designed to ensure that public income is spent properly – final time, only topic areas that had been awarded 3 and 4 stars secured study funding.

This time around, the methodology used to assess university study has modified, provoking controversy between academics.

How do you measure the quality of university analysis?

Underneath the existing framework, universities have been asked to submit examples of analysis projects personnel have finished in up to 36 subject places. Institutions can chose how many of their academics they enter to the REF, but each personal have to submit at least 4 examples of study, published amongst the many years 2008-13.

The big distinction is that research is now judged partly on the impact it has had outside of academia – this accounts for twenty% of the general score.

By offering a weighting to affect, the government hopes to reward universities that engage with business and civil society. But academics have complained that this demand adds an added layer of bureaucracy. University heads now have to give case scientific studies proving effect – for instance, specifics of how a piece of medical science has benefited the wider local community – which calls for them to acquire extra data. They also have to provide a research approach exhibiting how the university engages with research end users and influence from its analysis.

Alongside effect, study is also judged in accordance the good quality of investigation output (65%) and the vibrancy of the investigation environment (15%), which contains factors this kind of as the amount of PhD students inside a department.

Who judges the research?

Submissions are judged by one particular of the 36 topic-certain subpanels, which consist of practising researchers and analysis consumers, this kind of as business specialists. The names of all panel and sub-panel members are offered on the Hefce web site.

Some academics have argued that the sub-panels lack the expert expertise essential to evaluate research high quality. The number has shrunk considering that the last study evaluation process – from 67 subpanels to 36. There are also fears that panellists do not have the time to assessment submissions effectively.

What will the outcomes mean for universities?

The REF can improve universities’ basic analysis funding and popularity – or do the opposite. It is estimated that in the run up to the audit, institutions have invested £47m polishing their submissions. And that’s not to mention the poaching of academic personnel among rival universities.

Each institution wants to describe itself as “world-leading”: Thursday’s benefits will decide who can do so.

Far more like this:

5 motives why the REF is not match for purpose‬‬‬
Struggle for top study grades fuels bullying among university staff
Measuring effect: how Australia and the Uk are tackling study evaluation

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