Category: REF2021

The REF’s singular focus on excellence limits academic diversity

Research assessment exercises, such as the REF ostensibly serve to evaluate research, but they also shape and manage it. Based on a study of REF submissions in the fields of economics, history, business and politics, Engelbert Stockhammer, argues that …

Causality and complexity in impact statements: Is it time to rethink a one-size-fits-all approach to writing about impact?

As part of the REF assessment researchers across STEM and SSH disciplines are required to write about the impact of their research in essentially the same format. Drawing on a linguistic analysis of REF Impact statements from 2014, Andrea Bonaccorsi, h…

For the sake of all involved, we should stop the REF clock

Emily Yarrow and Julie Davies argue any benefits of the current March 31st submission date for REF2021 should not outweigh the human costs to the academics and staff currently working to achieve this deadline. The UK is in the midst of the worst health and financial crises for several generations and the REF deadline of … Continued

The relevance of political science and the public responsibility of political scientists

Political scientists face increasing demands to demonstrate the relevance of their research beyond the academy (the so-called ‘impact agenda’). Matthew Flinders argues that this should be seen less a threat to the discipline’s autonomy than an opportunity to rise to public responsibilities that have always accompanied a political science career. The ‘noble science of politics’ has … Continued

The impacts agenda is an autonomous push for opening up and democratizing academia, not part of a neo-liberal hegemony

Improving academic impact has been given a bad name in some academic circles, who link it to a near-conspiracy theory view of the powers of ‘neo-liberalism’. But Patrick Dunleavy and Jane Tinkler argue that (despite one or two bureaucratic distortions, like the REF), the impacts agenda is centrally about enhancing the efficacy of scientific and … Continued

The rush to research COVID-19 risks compromising research integrity and impact

This is the first post in a six-week series: Rapid or Rushed? exploring rapid response publishing in covid times. Much academic research is currently characterised by a rush to capture the effects of COVID-19. However, impact in the social sciences depends on researchers taking the time to look after themselves, exchange knowledge with others – … Continued

How to tell an impact story? The building blocks you need

At a loss for how to demonstrate impact? Laura Meagher and David Edwards outline a dynamic understanding of impact evaluation comprised of ‘building blocks’. These building blocks are five types of impacts; five broad categories of stakeholders; and eight causal factors, along with a set of over-arching reflective questions.   The increasing pressure placed upon … Continued

Book Review: The Impact Agenda: Controversies, Consequences and Challenges by Katherine E. Smith, Justyna Bandola-Gill, Nasar Meer, Ellen Stewart and Richard Watermeyer

In The Impact Agenda, Katherine E. Smith, Justyna Bandola-Gill, Nasar Meer, Ellen Stewart and Richard Watermeyer bring together research about the impact agenda and its policies into one critical discussion to highlight why it creates the controversies, consequences and challenges of the book’s subtitle. Calling on the UK academic community to seize the opportunity to reshape the impact agenda in more positive and … Continued

How should we celebrate the research excellence obscured by the REF? The case of the Research Software Engineer

The Research Excellence Framework’s purpose is to assess world-class research. However, it overlooks the work of many groups who make possible high-quality research submissions. James Baker illustrates this through the case of the Research Software Engineer, without whom much high-quality research would not be possible, but whose contributions do not get counted by the REF. … Continued

Unfunded research: Why academics do it and its unvalued contribution to the impact agenda

Unfunded research takes time and money for already stretched academics. Yet it makes up over a quarter of all research carried out in British universities. Professor Rosalind Edwards has spoken to academics about why they do unfunded research and argues that universities need to revalue this work in light of the significant contribution it makes … Continued