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    UK research can tackle global challenges but only if we heed lessons on research impact

UK research can tackle global challenges but only if we heed lessons on research impact

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. As the GCRF looks to fund interdisciplinary research and maximize its impact, James Georgalakis reflects on what can be learned from previous examples of successful evidence-based policymaking; from the importance of […]

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Why are interdisciplinary research proposals less likely to be funded? Lack of adequate peer review may be a factor.

Recent findings suggest interdisciplinary research is less likely to be funded than discipline-based research proposals. Gabriele Bammer looks at how interdisciplinary research is currently peer reviewed and argues different review processes may well be required to do justice to these different kinds of interdisciplinarity. Discipline-based researchers may be ill-equipped to evaluate the integrative processes that an interdisciplinary proposal plans to […]

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    Social science at the crossroads: the history of political science in the USA and the evolution of social impact.

Social science at the crossroads: the history of political science in the USA and the evolution of social impact.

What role should social scientists play in society? Louisa Hotson explores the evolution of the social sciences through four periods in the history of political science, each with different implications for how social science makes a difference. These lessons from history encourage us to think more broadly than we have in recent decades about how we define the ‘impact’ of the social […]

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    Ideas boom or innovation bust? Could Australia’s ‘ideas agenda’ stifle real innovation?

Ideas boom or innovation bust? Could Australia’s ‘ideas agenda’ stifle real innovation?

Australia’s so-called ‘ideas boom’ comes at a cost to research funding and sustainable infrastructure, Kanishka Jayasuriya and Carol Johnson write. An emphasis on entrepreneurial culture at the expense of wider public research investment risks socialising the risks of research and privatising the benefits, which ultimately may do lasting harm to both sectors.

Innovation is a central part of Australian Prime Minister […]

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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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