Number 6

Assessing Research Assessment in English, by Martin Dodsworth

Publication date: 6 November 2006

Martin Dodsworth, who has served three times on the English panel of the RAE, writes a personal account of research assessment in English as he has seen it, together with some observations on the 2008 Exercise and on the future of research assessment.

In 2008 there will once again be a Research Assessment Exercise, eight years after its predecessor. Preparation for the RAE is stressful in the extreme, and it is the cause of much unrest in departments as they attempt to boost their grades by the recruitment of supposed superstars and by the offer of enforced sabbatical leave or early retirement (sometimes both) to those who are deemed underproductive. So we must be grateful that there has been a pause since the last one – time for a little stability and, it should be hoped, reflection before the next great onslaught.
Colleagues in English departments might like to reflect on their good fortune. The RAE affects different subjects differently, one reason being that some (notably the sciences with their heavy laboratory costs) are funded much more generously per capita than others. For some (the sciences again), continuity of research can be a large problem; if a project overruns the period between RAEs it can risk serious loss of funding. English, which receives minimum funding for research, might seem to be in a position not to have to worry greatly about the RAE just because its research is relatively cheap. There are irritating hoops through which to jump if you want money for research in English, and it is possible to fail in jumping through the right ones, but by and large money is not a problem, and neither is continuity. So why do people in English get into such a lather about the Research Assessment Exercise?

Martin Dodsworth, p. 1

ISBN 0 900232 26 9 36pp

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