Head of Research Policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Steven Hill, presents an overview of the work HEFCE are currently commissioning which they are hoping will build a robust evidence base for research assessment. He argues that attention on the costs, benefits, problems and solutions of the REF are an obvious starting point, but it is also important that the […]
Rebecca Lawrence shares her response to the Nuffield Council on Biothetics’ report on the culture of scientific research. The report raised important issues that publishers across the industry are actively working towards. But further collaboration is needed amongst research funders, universities and publishers to tackle the many issues in quality assessment, recognition of negative findings, and adequate peer review. Otherwise we […]
Developing social impact requires the research agenda to move beyond conventional academic boundaries.
The Dutch Senate recently passed a new Standard Evaluation Protocol (SEP). The SEP highlights the importance of social impact for research. The new Protocol was developed by the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), VSNU (Association of Dutch universities) and NWO (Dutch Science Council) and is to be used to evaluate academic research from 2015-2021. Based on recent […]
Evaluation systems need not be perfect: University research assessment and the ongoing quest for simplicity.
In order to get a perfect assessment method, are we at risk of developing systems that are ever more complex and time-consuming? Dorothy Bishop looks at the differences between readily available measures to award research funding and the highly complicated RAE formula. An evaluation system need not be perfect – it just needs to be ‘good enough’ to provide a […]
An archeological site in southern Italy rich with history and restoration promise lies at the centre of a 21st century political debate. Andrea Lorenzo Capussela and Pier Giovanni Guzzo provide background on the Sybaris Project where a group of academics and volunteers are organising against administrative inefficiency. The aim is to exercise public pressure on the institutions responsible until they […]
Perceptions and ‘impacts’ of the REF: Key aim for next round should be to explore apprehension and minimise anxieties.
Discussions around the REF have tended to be negative, but academics appear to have experienced the framework in a number of different ways. To understand the variety of themes and important issues, Tony Murphy and Daniel Sage undertook a media analysis that points to the range of concerns academics have around the REF and its processes. They argue there is much […]
Overhyped and concentrated investments in research funding are leading to unsustainable science bubbles.
David Budtz Pedersen examines how the scientific market exhibits bubble behaviour similar to that of financial markets. Taking as an example the overwhelming investments in neuroscience, such high expectations may actually drain the research system from resources and new ideas. In the end the permanent competition for funding and the lack of ‘risk diversification’, might generate a climate in which citizens and […]
How competitive should science be? External reward structure may inhibit creative thinking and innovation.
Competition for funding and jobs is often cited as a helpful mechanism for spurning innovation and productivity in science. But Jessica Polka challenges this idea by drawing from the results of an experiment known as Duncker’s candle problem. The experiment revealed external rewards can actually inhibit creative thinking. If science is like the version of the candle problem, are […]
In a study of over 500 four year post-secondary institutions in all fifty US states from 1993-2010, Amanda Rutherford and Thomas Rabovsky find that current performance funding policies are not associated with higher levels of student performance and that these policies may in fact contribute to lower performance over a longer period of time. However, more recent policies linked to institutional base funding may produce […]
The Research Funding Officer role is increasingly fundamental to impact, growing in importance as bidding becomes more competitive and the impact stakes get higher. Casper Hitchins and Julie Bayley argue that the dramatic elevation of impact in funding applications demands more insightful planning. Focus at the funding application stage not only generates more competitive bids, but also secures resources for […]
The rejection of metrics for the REF does not take account of existing problems of determining research quality.
Amidst heavy scepticism over the role of metrics in research assessments, Martin Smith wonders whether the flaws of the current system have been fully recognised. There is no system of research assessment that is perfect and peer review may well be a better, although problematic, measure of quality than metrics. But the REF has become disproportionate. The question that arises […]
The value of sharing research data is widely recognised by the research community and funders are setting in place stronger policy requirements for researchers to share data. But the costs to researchers in sharing their data can be considerable and the incentives are sometimes few and far between. A recent report from the cross-disciplinary Expert Advisory Group on Data […]
Performance-based research assessment is narrowing and impoverishing the university in New Zealand, UK and Denmark.
Susan Wright, Bruce Curtis, Lisa Lucas and Susan Robertson provide a basic outline of their working paper on how performance-based research assessment frameworks in different countries operate and govern academic life. They find that assessment methods steer academic effort away from wider purposes of the university, enhance the powers of leaders, propagate unsubstantiated myths of meritocracy, and demand conformity. But the latest […]
The FIRST Act’s demand for relevance at the expense of replication puts the entire scientific enterprise at risk.
The United States’ controversial FIRST Act would have profound implications for how social science research is managed and its funding allocated. David Takeuchi argues that even if the act doesn’t pass, it is clear that politicians are demanding more of a say in federally funded research. While a push to ensure research remains relevant can be a good thing, scientists and […]
Evidence-based service delivery and development requires full range of interactions and connections with research.
To help expand understanding of how research makes an impact Sarah Morton draws from her extensive research into how different types of evidence are used to develop and improve key services. Research might raise awareness of an issue, change people’s knowledge or understanding of an issue, challenge attitudes, perceptions or ideas. Research use doesn’t just mean an instrumental application of […]
Surely there’s more to science than money? Economic determinism fails to capture science’s practical social benefit.
The benefits of the scientific enterprise can be difficult to pin-point directly. Rather than grapple with the complexity, many prefer to emphasise how science spending will lead to economic growth. Richard Jones looks back at motivations for science funding historically and finds that pure economic determinism so popular today is far from the only option. National defence and cultural value […]
Digital humanities platforms set to challenge technical barriers to digital research skills development.
Digital humanists are becoming increasingly aware of the potential for much wider impact through ‘crowdscribing’ and other innovative approaches to digital research. Emma Goodwin provides further information on a new initiative DHCrowdscribe that allows early career researchers to gain from resources and expertise to support technical project development. This approach will also foster wider collaboration between the humanities and other […]
In Morocco and abroad, universities are more than just a financial investment, they can instil collective belonging.
In Morocco, high unemployment rates among university graduates, the expansion of private vocational schools, and weak political support for public universities have all affected the university’s role in shaping the wider collective good. Shana Cohen outlines how the current policy situation is limiting the nature of academic impact in Morocco. The more complex, but perhaps more important, issue for […]
Understanding the value and impact of digital assets in research centres requires consistent methods.
A report looking into the value and impact of data sharing and curation in research data centres found that the value of the access that users have to the data is more than double the sum of money invested in the centres. Neil Grindley finds that this is obviously useful and good news for the data centres, but it is […]