Can the “impact of research” be measured?

Those working in academic institutions are by now all familiar with the new power-acronym: the REF (research excellence framework 2014). Even though its aim is commendable – to assess how good is the research done by universities, faculties, and departments – there are doubts in the academic community about whether this task is at all feasible, or, less fundamentally, about the appropriateness of the chosen methods to the task in hand. One fifth of the REF will specifically assess the “impact” of research – similarly to the way many research grants already do. Professor Johathan Wolff gives a sceptical view:

Influence in sensitive public-policy areas rarely leaves an audit trail. And if this is true of work directly commissioned by a public authority, what chance for work published in academic journals?

(read full article in the Guardian)

As a friend noted sarcastically today, the REF could have been named an “Framework for academic excellence”, but presumably that formulation was not chosen, because the acronym would have erroneously resembled the word “free”.

Categories: Higher Education

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