REF2014 Follow-up

Well, telescoper reblogging my post about REF2014 being good or bad has increased my readership by an order of magnitude or so for the last couple of days. The poll, in the post, about whether or not people thought the impact of REF2014 on university behaviour was positive, negative, or neutral has also been taken by considerably more people than was the case a few days ago.

Of those who took the poll – at this stage at least – a large majority (82%) were against REF2014 and thought it was having a damaging impact on university behaviour. Less than 10% thought it was having no impact or was having a positive impact. This largely confirmed my view that very few thought positively of REF2014. I need to be a little careful as clearly the poll was not a definitive poll on REF2014 and, as one commentator mentioned, there may be some positive aspects to REF2014. If it encourages us to publish fewer, better papers that would be a good thing.

On the other hand, it seems clear that REF2014 (which is meant to essentially be an assessment exercise) is having an impact on how universities behave. It does seem odd to have an assessment exercise that influences university behaviour and we should be very careful that we don’t end up with a university system that is optimised for performing well in REF exercises, rather than having an assessment system that is optimised for identifying universities that excel at research and scholarship.

So, what’s to be done. Probably nothing. It’s almost certainly too late to influence REF2014 and much of the negative aspects have already taken place (the hiring and firing for example). I did think that maybe negative publicity about REF2014 might change things in the future, but someone mentioned recently that there was a lot of negative publicity about RAE2001 and RAE2008 and that didn’t have much impact. Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now. If anyone would like to make a comment, please feel free to do so. Would be quite interested in the views of those who think REF2014 is having no impact or having a positive impact.

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