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    Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires

Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires

A proliferation of companies, government agencies, and higher education institutions are in the grip of what Jerry Z. Muller has termed “metric fixation”. But by tying rewards to metrics, organisations risk incentivising gaming and encouraging behaviours that may be at odds with their larger purpose. The culture of short-termism engendered by metrics also impedes innovation and stifles the entrepreneurial […]

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    Developing international guidelines for an effective process of research impact assessment

Developing international guidelines for an effective process of research impact assessment

Governments, funding agencies, and research organisations all over the world are now committed to measuring the impact of research beyond academic publications. Accordingly, a multidisciplinary practice called research impact assessment is rapidly developing. However, this practice remains in its formative stages and so no systematised recommendations or accepted standards to guide researchers and practitioners are currently available. Pavel Ovseiko, […]

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    Your research has been broadcast to millions – but how do you determine its impact?

Your research has been broadcast to millions – but how do you determine its impact?

The potential of broadcast programming to reach millions of people holds obvious appeal to researchers looking to maximise the dissemination of their work. But when it comes to impact, having vast reach is just one part of the equation – how can the significance of broadcast research be determined? Melissa Grant, Lucy Vernall and Kirsty Hill developed a mixed-methods […]

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    The neurotic academic: how anxiety fuels casualised academic work

The neurotic academic: how anxiety fuels casualised academic work

As higher education undergoes a process of marketisation in the UK and the activities of academic staff are increasingly measured and scrutinised, universities are suffused with anxiety. Coupled with pressures facing all staff, casualised academics face multiple forms of insecurity. While anxiety is often perceived as an individual problem for which employees are encouraged to take personal responsibility, Vik […]

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    Does not compute: why I’m proposing a moratorium on academics’ use of the term “outputs”

Does not compute: why I’m proposing a moratorium on academics’ use of the term “outputs”

The word “outputs” is now ubiquitous in UK academia, particularly in a REF context that requires authors to think of their publications in such terms. To Kirsten Bell this is jarring, with a term previously more commonly associated with the language of computing or economics, where outputs are measured and monetised, clearly not suitable to academia. It’s ultimately ideas […]

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    The role of the self in the research process: reflections on researching the REF as a PhD student

The role of the self in the research process: reflections on researching the REF as a PhD student

In this short, reflective post, Emily Yarrow considers her experiences as a PhD student researching women’s lived experiences of research evaluation in the UK and particularly the anxieties she felt as a junior researcher interviewing very senior, esteemed academic colleagues. It is important to reflect on the role researchers play in the interviewing and data collection process, and also […]

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    A brief history of research impact: how has impact assessment evolved in the UK and Australia?

A brief history of research impact: how has impact assessment evolved in the UK and Australia?

Over the last couple of decades there has been an international push around the assessment of the wider societal impact of research. Kate Williams and Jonathan Grant document the evolution of research impact assessment in the UK and Australia, and how policies in the two countries have been seemingly interdependent, a back-and-forth process developed through international learning. Continued political […]

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    Looming REF deadlines lead to a rush in publication of lower quality research

Looming REF deadlines lead to a rush in publication of lower quality research

The increased significance of research assessments and their implications for funding and career prospects has had a knock-on effect on academic publication patterns. Moqi Groen-Xu, Pedro A. Teixeira, Thomas Voigt and Bernhard Knapp report on research that reveals a marked increase in research productivity immediately prior to an evaluation deadline, which quickly reverses once the deadline has passed. Moreoever, […]

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    One-way, mutually constitutive, or two autonomous spheres: what is the relationship between research and policy?

One-way, mutually constitutive, or two autonomous spheres: what is the relationship between research and policy?

Academics are increasingly exhorted to ensure their research has policy “impact”. But is this ambition predicated on an overly simplistic understanding of the policy process? Christina Boswell and Katherine Smith set out four different approaches to theorising the relationship between knowledge and policy and consider what each of these suggests about approaches to incentivising and measuring research impact.

Political scientists […]

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    The gendered impact agenda – how might more female academics’ research be submitted as REF impact case studies?

The gendered impact agenda – how might more female academics’ research be submitted as REF impact case studies?

As the impact agenda increases in importance, appropriate consideration should be given to its effects on female academics. The REF has obviously gendered implications, with a number of different factors combining to exacerbate existing inequalities in the academy. Emily Yarrow and Julie Davies have examined impact case study submissions to the REF2014 business and management studies unit of assessment […]

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    Hitting the QR sweet spot: will new REF2021 rules lead to a different kind of game-playing?

Hitting the QR sweet spot: will new REF2021 rules lead to a different kind of game-playing?

Today marks 999 days until the expected deadline for submissions to REF 2021. Universities’ preparations are already well under way, with additional guidance published last autumn in the form of new REF rules designed to reduce game-playing behaviours among institutions. However, as Simon Kerridge observes, the rule changes may have introduced, or rather enhanced, some hidden dangers around universities’ […]

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    Resist? Welcome? Co-opt? Ignore? The pressures and possibilities of the REF and impact

Resist? Welcome? Co-opt? Ignore? The pressures and possibilities of the REF and impact

The increased focus on impact in research evaluation represents a range of possibilities and pressures to those academics whose work is being assessed. For some it offers an opportunity to progress social justice causes and engage in participatory, bottom-up research approaches with less powerful groups; while to others it is further evidence of the managerial audit culture that is […]

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    The RAE/REF have engendered evaluation selectivity and strategic behaviour, reinforced scientific norms, and further stratified UK higher education

The RAE/REF have engendered evaluation selectivity and strategic behaviour, reinforced scientific norms, and further stratified UK higher education

The UK’s periodic research assessment exercise has grown larger and more formalised since its first iteration in 1986. Marcelo Marques, Justin J.W. Powell, Mike Zapp and Gert Biesta have examined what effects it has had on the submitting behaviour of institutions, considering the intended and unintended consequences in the field of education research. Findings reveal growing strategic behaviour, including […]

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    Book Review: The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology by John Smyth

Book Review: The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology by John Smyth

In The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology, John Smyth offers a critical reading of the pathological state of higher education today, diagnosing this as the effect of commodification, marketisation and managerialism. While those looking for a minute analysis of the crisis of the university may at times wish for more nuanced and detailed insight, this is an outstanding […]

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    Why has no other European country adopted the Research Excellence Framework?

Why has no other European country adopted the Research Excellence Framework?

Most European countries have followed the UK’s lead in developing performance-based research funding systems (PRFS) for their universities. However, what these countries have not done is adopt the same system, the Research Excellence Framework being its most recent iteration. Instead, many use indicators of institutional performance for funding decisions rather than panel evaluation and peer review. Gunnar Sivertsen has […]

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    The concept of research impact pervades contemporary academic discourse – but what does it actually mean?

The concept of research impact pervades contemporary academic discourse – but what does it actually mean?

Research impact is often talked about, but how clear is it what this term really means? Kristel Alla, Wayne Hall, Harvey Whiteford, Brian Head and Carla Meurk find that academic literature discusses research impact but often without properly defining it, with academic discourses mostly drawing on bureaucratic definitions originating from the UK. The authors highlight four core elements that comprise […]

2017 in review: top posts of the year

As 2017 nears its end and before our focus is drawn to whatever the new year might have in store, now is the perfect time to look back and reflect on the last twelve months on the Impact Blog. Editor Kieran Booluck reports on another year in which our readership has grown, and also shares a selection of the […]

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    2017 in review: round-up of our top posts on research evaluation and impact

2017 in review: round-up of our top posts on research evaluation and impact

Increasing REF’s impact weighting could offer incentive for institutions to address societal, economic and global challenges
Challenges posed by events such as Brexit highlight the importance of excellent research programmes. Moreover, they represent a broader context in which the next Research Excellence Framework must consider “impact”. But do current REF proposals go far enough towards doing this? Matthew Guest argues that there […]

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