Category Archives: Consultations

Riff-ing again on the REF Consultation

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University.

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University.

The Research Excellence Framework is an exercise in identifying and rewarding excellence in research. It is, of course, also about resource allocation and therefore longer-term planning for research.

Hence, whether we like it or not, REF 2021 (like research assessments before it) will result in cultural and organisational changes in UK universities. For those who do well, REF 2021 will lead to changes, effects and (we hope) benefits to the ways these UK universities, Units of Assessment (UoAs) and the researchers working for them conduct research, and how they engage with non-academic beneficiaries and derive social and/or economic impacts from it. For those who do badly, research will have to be funded from sources other than QR; either that or this work could be de-prioritised.

Research Excellence Framework - REF 2021.

Research Excellence Framework – REF 2021.

Given the power of the REF to shape research priorities, it is important that the assessment system is equitable, and that the guidance promotes rigour, fairness, transparency and consistency. Although it doesn’t specifically say so in the documentation, it seems reasonable to assume that the current REF 2021 Consultation is an attempt to promote these principles.

It’s fair to note up front, therefore, that this post is prompted by some significant concerns about the current guidance and what it could mean, in particular, for the research impact agenda.

My principle concern in what follows is that the REF should not be about ‘boundary work’; setting up de facto restrictive practices prior to the assessment process that unfairly favours one set of impact-generating practices over another.

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Women and STEM – a close encounter of the political kind

Photo of Clem Herman

Clem Herman is a Senior Lecturer in the Dept. of Computing and Communications, Open University

A couple of months ago I was asked to give evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee as part of their enquiry into Women and STEM. What they wanted to know was why there was still a problem for women in achieving senior levels in STEM academic careers. Having recently led the OU’s successful submission for an Athena SWAN Bronze Award and having researched and written about gender and STEM for many years, I was asked to represent the OU and discuss what universities can do to help alleviate this situation.

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Engaged Futures consultation and NCCPE blog

NCCPE Blog post: An Engaging thesis

NCCPE Blog post: An Engaging thesis

The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) is running an Engaged Futures consultation.  Alongside, and partly in coordination with this consultation, the NCCPE have launched a blog (NCCPE’s blog).  

The NCCPE team invited various stakeholders to contribute a post to the new blog as part of the Engaged Futures consultation.  Authors were asked to imagine a future for some aspect of engaged research.

My contribution was based on an imagined future for postgraduate research and it titled ‘An engaging thesis‘.  The NCCPE team are keen to start a discussion around these articles, which will grow in number in the coming weeks, so feel free to comment, circulate, etc.