CGHE Seminar 81

Freedom and responsibility: researchers’ responses to the impact agenda in the UK and Australia

  • Thursday, 07 Jun 2018 12:30 - 14:00
  • Room 537, UCL Institute of Education
  • Jennifer Chubb, University of Sheffield

The management and measurement of the non-academic impact of research has emerged as a strong and consistent theme within the higher education research environment in the UK. This trend has been mirrored in other national contexts, particularly in Australia, where research impact policy is evolving at a similar pace.

The ‘impact agenda’ – a move to assess the ways in which investment in academic research delivers measurable socio-economic benefit – has sparked discussion, and in some instances controversy, among the academic community and beyond. Critics argue that it is symptomatic of the marketisation of knowledge and that it threatens traditional academic norms and ideals, while its advocates welcome the opportunity to increase the visibility of research beyond academia.

In this presentation, Dr Chubb will explore the response of academics in the UK and Australia towards impact in these two respective national contexts. Using interview data from mid-senior career academics, this research contributes to the relatively small but emerging body of scholarly research into academics’ perceptions of research impact.

Dr Chubb’s analysis indicates that considerations of research impact have profound effects on academic behaviour and identity. While responsibility emerges as a key motivation for engagement with the impact agenda, the pressures of an increasingly competitive research environment can at the same time be seen to negatively affect the integrity of academics.

These effects span disciplinary and national boundaries and reveal two distinctive cultures where affinities between academics whose research has a less instrumental nature appear to contrast with views expressed predominantly from those with an instrumental focus.

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Jennifer Chubb

Jennifer Chubb

Jenn is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield working on research policy through the development of a pilot study exploring academic attitudes towards the Research Excellence Framework post-Stern and beyond. Additionally, Jenn’s postdoctoral work includes research into the use and misuse of metrics in research following the ‘Metric Tide’. Jenn’s PhD from the University of York explored academic views on the philosophical relationship between ‘impact’ and epistemic responsibility through the lens of an impact agenda in higher education in the UK and Australia. She has co-authored published articles in Higher Education Research and Development, Studies in Higher Education, British Politics and more generally for the Conversation and Times Higher Education.

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