HEFCE: Research assessment post 2008

18 February 2008

The Royal Society responded to the Higher Education Funding Council for England's (HEFCE) consultation on the assessment and funding of higher education research post-2008. The Society has a long-standing interest in the issue of research assessment (links to our previous work in this area are below).

In our response we strongly endorse the current dual support system of financing research in UK higher education, and state our belief that this should continue post-2008. The Society believes that dual support is an effective mechanism to sustain excellent research.

The future success and sustainability of the research base involves a number of broader research-related activities such as public engagement, innovation and engagement with user communities, and contributions to policy. The Society believes than an overall research funding system, that includes the Research Excellence Framework (REF), must properly recognise these activities. We are concerned that the current consultation is not offering an integrated perspective that considers how the REF will link with a consideration of these other aspects.

Our response states that we believe that existing and proposed metrics should be used as indicators only, and that to fully assess the quality of research peer judgement is a necessary part of assessment for all science subjects. We also believe that the currently proposed division between science' and non-science' subjects is neither appropriate or workable.

We also have strong concerns that the proposed bibliometric system could have a negative impact on early career researchers who have not yet built up a sizeable body of published work.

The implementation of a bibliometrics-based research assessment framework is a substantial and complex task, and the proposed timescale for the pilot is unrealistic. We believe therefore that RAE 2008 should inform funding for longer than is currently proposed, and to take more time, at least an extra 12 months, to learn from the pilot.

Related links

HEFCE consultation document

Royal Society 2006 Response to DfES consultation on research assessment

Royal Society 2004 Submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee follow-up enquiry into the RAE

Royal Socity 2002 Submission to the Roberts Review of the Research Assessment Exercise