Back in circulation - and REF again

Added by Stephane Goldstein on 07 May 2008 14:04

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I should start with an apology for our silence on this blog for the past few weeks. This is not owing to a loss of faith in the undoubted virtues of blogging, but more a reflection of how overwhelmingly pressed for time we have been of late.

One of the many reasons for this is that we have been engaged in an onerous recruitment exercise to expand the size (and hopefully the effectiveness) of the RIN executive team. We’re finally nearing the end of this, and we will soon be able to report on the appointment of four new faces; so exciting times ahead for us…

Much has happened in the intervening period, not least the announcement that HEFCE and the other HE Funding Councils are moving ahead with arrangements for the Research Excellence Framework, following a consultation which elicited 338 responses, including of course one from the RIN.

The announcement, a couple of weeks ago, was well-reported - and moreover, extensively leaked beforehand - so no need for us to go over the generally sound decision to develop a more flexible approach to the assessment framework, and to allow more time to design this. It is worth highlighting however some of the issues picked up in HEFCE’s analysis of responses received, for instance respondents’ views that:

  • Bibliometrics do not capture the quality of applied or practice based research or user-value, and should be used alongside other quality-related indicators.
  • To compensate for the perceived weakness of Web of Science coverage, books, reports, software, and so on should be included in the range of outputs to be included for assessment (although, sadly, the analysis does not make a specific reference to data as a significant research output).
  • The need for the REF to be able to take account of the increasing amount of  output available in future in open access.
  • The importance of monitoring the behavioural impacts of the REF, with a role here for the proposed expert panels.
The last point is important for the RIN, as we feel that we have a distinctive contribution to make in this area. We have had preliminary discussions with HEFCE to try to define a way in which we could provide useful evidence, and we hope that we will be able to commission a project within the next few months to address issues around the information behaviour of researchers as a consequence of research assessment.

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