Comments such as these are important to feed to HEFCE in its review of REF and particularly impact. Yet only one reply per instiutution is allowed, so it is unlikely that reflections on internal management or the negative effects of the exercise, as seen by researchers themselves, not managers will feature in submissions. This contrasts with New Zealand, where the review of the equivalent - The Performance-Based Research Fund [PBRF] invited submissions from HEIs departments within them, staff within them, even student organisations. All replies were then published, with little apparent editing/redaction.
Thanks for these comments, lots for us to think about. We're keen to hear more of your thoughts and opinions in our online survey which is coming later this month – please do respond to that.
y good idea Hugh. I am involved in various arms length ways with three Universities in the UK and US, as well as with various others through joint projects, and I have been amazed at the complexity and conflicting priorities they face, in particular around the tyranny of citations in direct conflict with the need for engagement and impact. As an outsider I think this is totally wasting the brilliant brains we have in academia to focus solely on citations in a small number of journals as the only means of promotion and career enhancement. I feel strongly that engagement in its widest sense (not public engagement only) should be officially prioritised within Unis, and I appreciate that is what the REF is trying to do, but it is still at odds with the citations criteria, simply adding another layer of complexity as you say. Some are trying hard to do that, and succeeding in their own university, but researchers are definitely penalised career wise if they take their eye off the citations ball outside a few innovative places. How can this be rectified without adding additional pressure. I will be sending a link to your consultation to some who have felt they have chosen engagement over career enhancement deliberately. Very sad.
I am also slightly disappointed by your steering group if I am honest. I appreciate that you are aiming to reach individual researchers, young researchers etc through the consultation (which I hope submissions can be anonymous), but it is the usual great and the good in charge of research, it would have been interesting to see younger researchers in there and those involved at different levels in the more peripheral fields in the bioethics areas. I appreciate also that you have said that they will be engaging widely, so perhaps it will be achieved and what I am meaning would have been a token.
Good luck, I am looking forward to seeing your output. An interesting aside, the multistakeholder steering group of MATTER (including academics) agreed that MATTER should no longer participate in academic projects such as Research Council or EC Framework projects because the outputs remain in academic journals and make little contribution to society. I am new to this area and it has taken me five years to realise that this is really the case in so many areas - such brilliant work and tax payers money squandered by being written in my area of social science in particular in incomprehensible language, read by one's mates and a few others peers, signifying not a great deal. This is a global problem, not a UK problem, but disappointing and to an outside astonishing nonetheless.
I have been reading more of the behavioural sciences, most recently Margaret Heffernan's work on Wilful Blindness and her new book on why Competition is counter productive and collaboration essential, I feel she points out so many issues about tribalism, competition, fear of failure which explain some of the difficulties facing academia and hope that your report may also look at the cognitive issues as well as simply the procedural ones.
I'm glad you are looking at this. The system of perverse incentives under which much science exists has encouraged shortcuts, short-termism, guest authorship, ghost authors *in clinical work). They have led to corruption and in the end will damage the economy of the country as well as lead to distrust in science. People are beginning to wake up to the seriousness of the problem thanks to people like John Ioannidis, Peter Gotzsche and a host of science bloggers. On the other hand regulatory agencies have mostly added to the problem, rather than helping.
Something must be done.