RCUK publishes more Pathways to Impact case studies

November 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Further case studies to see how we might write Impact studies, now on the RCUK website.

Categories: Official statements, RCUK, REF

‘Overreacting’ managers take impact too far

May 25, 2012 Leave a comment

In the THES last week:

The overreaction of university managers to the impact agenda is narrowing the kinds of research scholars feel able to carry out, academics have warned.

A worrying trend.

Categories: newspapers, Opinion pieces, REF

Predicting the REF

News has been quiet lately, but here is an interesting attempt to determine if the REF outcome could be predicted by other means:

How predictable is the REF?

Categories: newspapers, Opinion pieces, REF

The REF will strangle our vibrant academic community

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

On the LSE blog, Peter Wells suggests the REF will

alter morale, academic valuation of our work, and the way in which we do it.

Read the full article here.

Although I believe academics will continue to be academics, and the future is not all pessimistic, it is important to be reminded of the threats to the freedom of the academic life.

Categories: Opinion pieces, REF

Universities under attack

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Keith Thomas in the London Review of Books:

We are all deeply anxious about the future of British universities. Our list of concerns is a long one. It includes the discontinuance of free university education; the withdrawal of direct public funding for the teaching of the humanities and the social sciences; the subjection of universities to an intrusive regime of government regulation and inquisitorial audit; the crude attempt to measure and increase scholarly ‘output’; the requirement that all academic research have an ‘impact’ on the economy; the transformation of self-governing communities of scholars into mega-businesses, staffed by a highly-paid executive class, who oversee the professors, or middle managers, who in turn rule over an ill-paid and often temporary or part-time proletariat of junior lecturers and research assistants, coping with an ever worsening staff-student ratio…

It is a serious attack; well worth reading the full article (HT: Jason Fout).

Categories: newspapers, Opinion pieces

Misunderstanding impact

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

The press (and Universities) love to refer to impact and the effect this or that action will produce. There seems to be a simple confusion between publicity and impact, though. Impact is a measurable outcome, directly from ones research, that has such an impact as to change people’s opinions, lives or habits. Reaching an audience is not sufficient if it is not measurable or if it does not change that audience in some way.

See some of these recent examples of non-impact:

“How Twitter will revolutionise academic research and teaching”

Therefore, the 21st century scholar has the tools not only to publish and disseminate, but also to facilitate the development of specialised audiences, and therefore of what is called “impact”: people read, and in turn write about your work, which is in turn read by others.

This would be internal scholarly impact, which is not classed as “impact”.

“Chosen academics to broadcast their research on BBC Radio 3”

David Petts, lecturer in archaeology at Durham University, said that he was, in part, motivated to enter the competition by the impact agenda, although he recognised that it would be difficult to measure the impact of increasing the public’s historical understanding through his broadcasts.

This is a realistic recognition, but the desperation today to be seen in the media as a means of impact is misguided. To quote the ESRC on “What is Impact?”:

A key aspect of this definition of research impact is that impact must be demonstrable. It is not enough just to focus on activities and outputs that promote research impact, such as staging a conference or publishing a report. You must be able to provide evidence of research impact, for example, that it has been taken up and used by policy makers, and practitioners, has led to improvements in services or business.

Above all, research must be of the highest quality: you can’t have impact without excellence.

That is a sobering final sentence.

New ways with old numbers

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Tim Harford discusses in FT.com the problems of quantifying impact of any research:

The quality of a piece of research is subjective, and using measures such as the number of peer-reviewed articles published simply outsources the subjective judgment to somebody else. But there is a deeper problem: in a complex world, it is impossible for anyone to judge what the significance of a research breakthrough might eventually be.

Categories: newspapers, Opinion pieces

Academics and the Media: Friends or Foes?

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

A balanced discussion on Night Waves (BBC Radio 3) about the relationship between academics and the media, with its attendant publicity. (Not sure if only available to UK listeners.) Impact is hotly debated from 24 minutes onwards.

Categories: Opinion pieces, Radio

The HE white paper strikes a fatal blow against research

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

So writes Peter Scott, in The Guardian for 5th September:

The recent white paper is not concerned with research. It does not attempt to look at higher education as a whole, concentrating instead on the new student fees market. So it is hardly surprising two fundamental principles are threatened by the white paper – the block grant to universities and the dual-support system of research funding.




Categories: newspapers, Opinion pieces

The Arts and Humanities: Endangered Species?

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

There are some excellent videos by the University of Cambridge of brief presentations on why the Arts and Humanities matter. It is very important to build up the case for the importance of the subject if we are to convince government and others of their value. Well worth watching, especially as each podcast is kept to 7 minutes.

Follow the link to The Arts and Humanities: Endangered Species? or search on Youtube.

Categories: Links, Opinion pieces