The Matthew effect and REF 2014: Funding disparities between UK universities may cause greater strains over time.

As the submission deadline for REF2014 draws nearer, there is a need to reflect on how the subsequent allocation of funding will affect the UK research environment. Dorothy Bishop argues that the rumoured funding formula would dramatically increase the gulf between the elite and other institutions and that if funding continues to be concentrated only in elite institutions with a high […]

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November 13th, 2013|Impact, REF2014|0 Comments|

What happens when you make a book open access? New business models are emerging, but challenges still remain.

Initial studies into the effect of open access monographs suggest little to no impact on sales, but an increase in discoverability and online usage. But there are still many hurdles to overcome before OA books become a routine option for scholars. Ellen Collins and Caren Milloy present an overview of how the OAPEN-UK research project is exploring disciplinary norms and emerging […]

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The academic career path has been thoroughly destabilised by the precarious practices of the neoliberal university.

It is an increasingly difficult time to begin an academic career. The pressures of the REF, casualization and adjunctification of teaching and the disappearance of research funding are enormous obstacles academics face. Sydney Calkin looks at how academics have in many ways become model neoliberal subjects. How might we effectively challenge the growing acceptance of the unpaid, underpaid, zero hours work within […]

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Book Review: Constructing Research Questions: Doing Interesting Research

Traditional textbooks on research methods tend to ignore, or gloss over, how research questions are constructed. In this text, Mats Alvesson & Jorgen Sandberg seek to challenge researchers to look past the easy or obvious choices and create more interesting and rewarding questions. Joanna Lenihan feels that this is potentially a valuable and practical tool for researchers and could be integrated into […]

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Getting Somewhere: HEFCE Proposals on Open Access for a Post-2014 Research Excellence Framework

Proposals for how the UK government intends to mandate open access for research assessment have been issued, along with the invitation for the academic community to respond. Meera Sabaratnam and Paul Kirby welcome the clarification on these policies and look ahead to what remains to be done to ensure an appropriate restructuring of the current publishing system. Last week, the UK’s Higher Education Funding Council for England […]

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August 1st, 2013|Open Access, REF2014|1 Comment|

Impact factors declared unfit for duty

Last week the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment was published. This document aims to address the research community’s problems with evaluating individual outputs, a welcome announcement for those concerned with the mis-use of journal impact factors. Stephen Curry commends the Declaration’s recommendations, but also highlights some remaining difficulties in refusing to participate in an institutional culture still beholden to the impact […]

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The apparatus of research assessment is driven by the academic publishing industry and has become entirely self-serving

Peer review may be favoured as the best measure of scientific assessment ahead of the REF, but can it be properly implemented? Peter Coles does the maths on what the Physics panel face and finds there simply won’t be enough time to do what the REF administrators claim. Rather, closed-access bibliometrics will have to be substituted at the expense of legitimate […]

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May 14th, 2013|REF2014|17 Comments|

Absence of impact used to be the fashionable thing to claim

Amidst the time-consuming intensity of compiling submissions for the Research Excellence Framework (REF), Athene Donald reflects on how the necessity of demonstrating research impact has been understood over the years. While there are even identifiable shifts from 2008’s RAE assessment, more substantially divergent is the 18th century view where practical applications of research could actually do great damage to the status […]

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Heroic impact narratives create a dangerous divide between the researcher and the local context

At a time when researchers are expected to demonstrate ‘impact’, it can be tempting to rely on heroic research narratives that paint the researcher as a kind of evidence-based savior. Pat Thomson warns against the use of this type of narrative, arguing these bombastic stories fail to convey the complexity of the situation and the agency of the actors involved. Change, […]

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April 26th, 2013|Impact, REF2014|0 Comments|

An embedded culture of research impact will not emerge unless universities think beyond the REF

The common impact narrative, illustrated best by the Research Excellence Framework, is one of ‘accountability’ – impact as the most effective way of demonstrating research’s value for money. But research impact is much broader than this limited bureaucratic understanding. Andrew Clappison warns that universities must not lose sight of the need for a more balanced approach that empowers researchers to be active […]

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April 17th, 2013|Impact, REF2014|4 Comments|

The ‘avalanche of change’ in higher education must be contextualised in terms of the government’s broader neoliberal policies

A recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research has made headlines calling for urgent transformation of British universities if they are to survive sweeping technological change. From massive open online courses (MOOCs) to open access, John Holmwood argues these changes are less about transformative technology and more about privatised commercialisation and must be understood as part of the wider neo-liberal context in which […]

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The new metrics cannot be ignored – we need to implement centralised impact management systems to understand what these numbers mean

By using the social web to convey both scholarly and public attention of research outputs, altmetrics offer a much richer picture than traditional metrics based on exclusive citation database information. Pat Loria compares the new metrics services and argues that as more systems incorporate altmetrics into their platforms, institutions will benefit from creating an impact management system to interpret these metrics, pulling in […]

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Case studies are a bridge to influence and a versatile method for communicating research findings

Beyond its publicised use in the Research Excellence Framework, James Harvey considers the wider role of the case study as a research method and underlines its often overlooked function as a tool for communicating with different audiences and stakeholders. The case study’s versatility and scope for reflection means the form is an accessible device for communicating research evidence to policy makers and […]

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Making an impact: communicating your research to a ‘stand up radio’ audience

Steven Fielding finds it bizarre that academics spend so much time producing knowledge, which they then share only with a tiny number of people. Radio documentaries are a great way for academics to break down the ivory tower image. It offers a new environment and the opportunity to work with other disciplines and expertise while reaching a much broader audience. In 2010 […]

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5 Minutes with Professor Rachel Pain: “Research capacity is our greatest resource, and collaboration at any level has the potential to make for excellent research”

Rachel Pain talks with Mark Carrigan to discuss the impact agenda, collaborative research, and the distinct opportunities and challenges posed to the academic community by the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014). She finds that now is the time for universities to re-evaluate existing relations within and between the academy and wider society. Especially in this time of austerity, universities should look […]

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Departmental H-Index is a more transparent, fair and cost-effective method for distributing funding to universities.

There is growing concern that the contentious journal impact factor is being used by universities as a proxy measure for research assessment. In light of this and the wider REF2014 exercise, Dorothy Bishop believes we need a better system for distributing funding to universities than the REF approach allows. A bibliometric measure such as a departmental H-index to rank departments would […]

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February 8th, 2013|Impact, REF2014|12 Comments|

REF nightmares before Christmas

In a moment of frivolity Athene Donald sketched out how a REF committee in a dysfunctional department might pan out. As chair of her own local REF committee she is delighted to say my own  experiences bear no relationship to this sad state of affairs, however complex our discussions may get. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited  the […]

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December 20th, 2012|Impact, REF2014|0 Comments|

REF Advice Notes 3: What will Hefce count as ‘under-pinning’ research?

Many possible Impact Cases are likely to raise issues about whether they are sufficiently grounded on what the REF audit Panels can recognize as ‘2* research’. The Funding Council’s overly restrictive ‘physical science’ view of how research influences policy has created an artificial minefield of pointless obstacles. However, Jane Tinkler and Patrick Dunleavy show how with skill and persistence, departments can navigate successfully […]

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October 29th, 2012|Impact, REF2014|0 Comments|

REF Advice Note 2: Identifying ‘possibles’ for your Impact Case Study

In the second of our free Advice Note series on how to write Impact Case Studies for the REF, Patrick Dunleavy explains how to sift out achievements that are ‘possible’ Cases and to begin developing them successfully. The key thing here is to stay auditable and to ‘process trace’ in as much detail as you can how your research achieved […]

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October 24th, 2012|Impact, REF2014|2 Comments|
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