In the UK, a national research assessment exercise has taken place every few years since 1986, and is the basis on which nearly £2 billion of annual funding is parcelled out. As a result, it has huge reach across the university system.
In July 2016, a review of the REF by Lord Stern was published, part of a radical overhaul of the UK’s higher education and research system. To simplify and reduce the burden of the process, Stern has recommended the inclusion of all research active staff, and an end to the portability of research outputs between institutions. He also wants to broaden the way research impacts are defined.
What will Stern’s proposals mean for the design and operation of the next REF? Will the aspiration to reduce burden be realised? Will it help or hinder the prospects of early career researchers? And what ambiguities still need to be resolved? James Wilsdon will cast a critical eye up the road to REF2021 with David Price as respondent.
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James Wilsdon is Professor of Research Policy and Director of Impact and Engagement for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and one of the editors of the Guardian’s ‘Political Science’ blog on science and research policy. His research interests include the role of evidence and expertise in policymaking; the politics and practice of scientific advice; interdisciplinarity, particularly between natural and social sciences; science, research and innovation policy in the UK, EU and China; scientometrics; the future of the impact agenda; and public engagement in research.
David Price is UCL Vice-Provost (Research) and Professor of Mineral Physics. He is responsible for leading UCL’s preparation for future research assessment exercises (REF) under the proposed new model. He is a Member of the Academia Europaea and an Elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and of the Mineralogical Society of America. He was one of the first to establish the now major field of computational mineral physics.