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    What makes research excellent? Digging into the measures aimed at quantifying and promoting research excellence.

What makes research excellent? Digging into the measures aimed at quantifying and promoting research excellence.

“Research excellence” is a tricky concept in theory and arguably trickier to capture in practice. Toni Pustovrh shares findings from a recent study which looks at how research is currently quantified and evaluated in Slovenia. In-depth interviews with scientists reveal a variety of views on the concept and the current mechanisms in place. The analysis suggests that neither a predominantly peer-review based […]

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    Fundable, but not funded: How can research funders ensure ‘unlucky’ applications are handled more appropriately?

Fundable, but not funded: How can research funders ensure ‘unlucky’ applications are handled more appropriately?

Having a funding application rejected does not necessarily mean the research is unsupportable by funders – maybe just unlucky. There is a significant risk to wider society in the rejection of unlucky but otherwise sound applications: good ideas may slip through the cracks, or be re-worked and dulled-down to sound more likely to provide reliable results. Oli Preston looks at […]

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    Organising logic: Project time versus process time in the accelerated academy.

Organising logic: Project time versus process time in the accelerated academy.

There are two contrasting temporal logics in academia that shape the ways in which research is understood: project time and process time. Oili-Helena Ylijoki explores the differences between the two. On one hand, there is the tightly scheduled, linear, decontextualized, predictable and compressed project time, and on the other, there is the unbounded, multi-directional, context-dependent, emergent and timeless process time. Due to […]

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    It’s time to put our impact data to work to get a better understanding of the value, use and re-use of research.

It’s time to put our impact data to work to get a better understanding of the value, use and re-use of research.

If published articles and research data are subject to open access and sharing mandates, why not also the data on impact-related activity of research outputs? Liz Allen argues that the curation of an open ‘impact genome project’ could go a long way in remedying our limited understanding of impact. Of course there would be lots of variants in the type of impact […]

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    Moving interdisciplinary research forward: Top down organising force needed to help classify diverse practices.

Moving interdisciplinary research forward: Top down organising force needed to help classify diverse practices.

What does “interdisciplinarity” actually mean? Gabriele Bammer argues lumping interdisciplinary work together may be prohibiting an effective evaluation of how this kind of research is faring. A much more intuitive approach is needed to distinguishing between aspects of diverse research practices. Furthermore, developing effective professional organisations is also a key task for moving interdisciplinary research forward.

In a recent special issue of the journal […]

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    The politics of science funding: We need to think about science and knowledge production in a more practical light

The politics of science funding: We need to think about science and knowledge production in a more practical light

Government funding of science has become an increasingly prominent issue in the United States. Examining the current debate and its consequences, Arne L. Kalleberg interviews Gordon Gauchat about his recent article, “The Political Context of Science in the United States: Public Acceptance of Evidence-Based Policy and Science Funding.”

How might your study help us understand the current political debate in […]

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Spending Review brings good news for science.

The government’s recognition of the value of the UK research budget in the Spending Review is good news for science and good news for the economy. Romesh Vaitilingam argues new knowledge and innovative ideas generated by research – whether done in the public or private sector – are key drivers of productivity growth. But without public investment, society as […]

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    Addressing societal challenges: Joined-up research funding could facilitate innovation and engagement.

Addressing societal challenges: Joined-up research funding could facilitate innovation and engagement.

With changes looming for research councils and research funding as a whole, John Goddard looks at what a more joined-up research council driven by societal challenges would mean for the social sciences. Universities are going to have to increase their capacity to support engagement with society. The social science community therefore needs to actively enter into the fray locally and […]

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    Bringing together academics and businesses can be a delicate process — What can we do to encourage collaboration?

Bringing together academics and businesses can be a delicate process — What can we do to encourage collaboration?

Bringing together academics and businesses can be a complex and delicate process. Most partnerships are successful, but more is needed to link businesses with academics, writes Ben McLeod. Here he shares some recent survey findings that suggest there are some very real barriers that need to be overcome. For those who do make it work, however, the process and […]

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    What do we want the university as a workplace to look like? Contextualising precarious employment in higher education

What do we want the university as a workplace to look like? Contextualising precarious employment in higher education

Jack Saunders reflects on discussions taking place in humanities departments over what casualised work of various kinds might mean for the sector. He argues there has been little attempt to explain the social processes that have produced these conditions. Academics are workers in institutions that are rapidly “rationalising” their employment practices in line with market imperatives. Understanding casualisation in higher education […]

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    Was the REF a waste of time? Strong relationship between grant income and quality-related funding allocation.

Was the REF a waste of time? Strong relationship between grant income and quality-related funding allocation.

If the funding allocated to universities on the basis of the REF is correlated to the amount of grant income universities already receive, what is the point of the output assessment process? Jon Clayden explores the relationship between grant income generated and REF-related QR funding and finds a strong correlation between the two, suggesting that the double-counting exercise is surely not the best we […]

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    Tracking the impact of intervention research reveals complex interplay of researchers’ actions and external factors.

Tracking the impact of intervention research reveals complex interplay of researchers’ actions and external factors.

Lucie Rychetnik and Robyn Newson were part of a research group examining the ‘real-world’ impacts of health intervention research. Using an impact assessment scoring system, they found a wide range of possible impacts. They also found local contextual and organisational factors, and unpredictable windows of opportunity were as important as the skills of individual researchers and the quality of their research.

Increasingly, in both […]

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    Why did REF2014 cost three times as much as the RAE? Hint: It’s not just because of the added impact element.

Why did REF2014 cost three times as much as the RAE? Hint: It’s not just because of the added impact element.

The benefits of any research assessment framework should ideally outweigh the costs and burden incurred by universities and staff. Derek Sayer argues there should be cause for concern now that recent analysis shows the 2014 REF bill was three times as much as the last UK assessment exercise. The costly increase in staff time was driven by the increased importance […]

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    Rather than narrow our definition of impact, we should use metrics to explore richness and diversity of outcomes.

Rather than narrow our definition of impact, we should use metrics to explore richness and diversity of outcomes.

Impact is multi-dimensional, the routes by which impact occur are different across disciplines and sectors, and impact changes over time. Jane Tinkler argues that if institutions like HEFCE specify a narrow set of impact metrics, more harm than good would come to universities forced to limit their understanding of how research is making a difference. But qualitative and quantitative indicators continue […]

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    The metric tide is rising: HEFCEmetrics report argues metrics should support, not supplant, expert judgement.

The metric tide is rising: HEFCEmetrics report argues metrics should support, not supplant, expert judgement.

James Wilsdon introduces the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management. The review found that the production and consumption of metrics remains contested and open to misunderstanding. Wider use of quantitative indicators, and the emergence of alternative metrics for societal impact, could support the transition to a more open, accountable and outward-facing research system. But […]

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    Job security for early career researchers is a significant factor in helping research make an impact.

Job security for early career researchers is a significant factor in helping research make an impact.

Doctorate holders’ careers are increasingly diverse and research funders have a strong interest in exploring how their investment has contributed to the career paths of the researchers supported and how their work benefits society. Funders are also looking to understand the challenges, bottlenecks and opportunities at different career stages in order to tailor policies and activities to researchers’ needs. Siobhan […]

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    The EU is the world’s largest scientific engine and rising – and the UK is currently in the driving seat.

The EU is the world’s largest scientific engine and rising – and the UK is currently in the driving seat.

Modern science is about teams and the EU is a great team needed to take on our 21st century challenges. Here Mike Galsworthy considers the potential consequences that the UK leaving the EU would have on scientific funding and innovation. The EU science funding structure currently enables UK labs to build on the work of diverse and talented multinational science teams.
In the […]

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    Your grant application is about to die: Research teams that recognise gender dimension offer a competitive advantage.

Your grant application is about to die: Research teams that recognise gender dimension offer a competitive advantage.

Funding requirements confirm there is a competitive advantage for research engaged in the active promotion of gender perspectives. Strategic decision-making in universities should also recognise the value a sex and gender dimension adds, both for funding and the quality of research. Curt Rice stresses how social sciences and humanities can help deliver these perspectives more deliberately and explicitly into research.

Last year, the world lost […]

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