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Posts Tagged ‘Research Excellence Framework’


This is a question raised at the end of the excellent article by @Amy_Harmon regarding Open Access and preprints is can biomedical scientists evaluate each other without journals?

The short answer is a resounding yes.  Physical scientists and mathematicians have been posting much of their research as preprints on arXiv for a few decades, with no prejudice to their ability to evaluate the quality of work or of individuals.

The counter argument raised by many in biomedical sciences, from scientists to some journal editors can be boiled down quite simply: We are special and cannot possibly do this.

Various arguments are put forward, from competition (=fear of scooping) to intellectual property. These arguments are heard in many biomedical/biology departments, sometimes leading to quite heated discussions. It is also interesting to note that the defenders of the status quo are not necessarily the older members of the community.

There is a simple answer. Yes you are special, but not in the good sense of the word. (more…)

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I went to a most useful talk this morning by Stephen Carlton (@LivUniOA) on the Univeristy repository. I had whinged about this as being nearly unusable, but then I jumped in on an early version.

The repository is now useable, though it is quirky. A few lessons from my efforts to update my entries.
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Reading my colleagues’ papers, a key step in our evaluation of outputs, was very, very useful. I learned many new things and also understand the research across my Institute and indeed large parts of the Faculty much better. The University has yet to use this knowledge accumulated by its REF Wallahs – it would make sense for these people to inform research policy, they have read a lot of papers.

The Faculty Clinical Medicine subpanel meetings were fun – my colleagues on this panel are a great bunch to work with and their injection of humour into proceedings eased the pain. (more…)

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REF 2014 is the fourth assessment in a row where we have made real progress, and this is very pleasing.
In RAE 1996 the newly formed School of Biological Sciences attained a grade 4, which equates to research of national standard, with some research of international standard.
In RAE 2001 44/65 staff were returned, attaining a grade 5B. This equates to over 50% (and we were only just over the 50% bar on this one) of returned staff producing research of international standard. In RAE 2008 terms (and in REF 2013) this (more or less) corresponds to 2* to 4*. Though difficult to compare between different grading systems, a guesstimate of the School of Biological Sciences RAE 2001 performance in RAE 2008 terms is ~ 35-40% 2*-4* research, with the balance of 65-60% at 1*.
In RAE 2008 all 65 staff were returned, with 40% 4* and 3*, 45% 2*, 15% 1*, and, as I mentioned in the previous post in REF 2014 we are at least up to 65% of all staff having 3* and 4* outputs.
So progression in score. This also reflects real change, it isn’t cosmetic. It would be obvious to anyone visiting the School/Institute over the 20 years 1994-2014 that the place has changed and there is a far greater buzz about.
This begs a question, which I will turn to in the future post: Was it RAE/REF that drove these changes or something else, and so is RAE/REF worthwhile?

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Now that the dust has settled, institutions have posted their interpretations of the results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), and people have gone through the results and institutional interpretations in various blogs, I thought it time to put my oar in. This is the first of a series of posts that will look at the REF 2014 score of the Institute of Integrative Biology, how RAE/REF scores for this academic enterprise have fared over time, and whether REF/RAE is of any use. (more…)

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Last year’s resolution was: I will only referee papers from Open Access or Learned Society journals. This I more or less stuck to, except in a couple of cases where it really had to be me.

In 2015 I will follow the resolution 100%, but will add two further resolutions:
1. Papers where I am PI will only be published in Open Access journals (something I achieved in 2014)
2. All the above papers and for as many of those where I am co-author as possible will also provide Open Data. This is something started in late 2014 and which will continue in 2015.
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Following my post on August 7, “REF: !#?! GRRRR, Aaaaaarrrrrrrgh“, an article in the Times Higher by Paul Jump on the University of Leicester’s recent memo indicating that staff not returned on REF would be viewed as underperforming. This is somewhat disturbing on the grounds that REF does not equate with research excellence, for reasons outlined in my previous post and by others. There can be no excuse for those who are doing little research and teaching, but to start swinging this particular blunt instrument without taking into account overall performance is destructive.
In most universities, teaching brings in the greater part of the institution’s income. An interesting view of research is that it runs at a loss, but is important for the prestige of the university and to ensure that we can deliver research-led teaching. In any event, institutions sacking their less research active staff who deliver a lot of teaching and admin will be in for a shock, when they try to find staff of sufficient caliber to deliver the same teaching and admin.
For senior management to have written such a memo can be taken as either a sign of sloppiness – according to this viewpoint, the importance of other activities was understood, but not stated. The alternative is such a narrow view of a university that it is destructive. One can only hope that the memo is the product of the former.
UPDATE 16 August: Excellent post on the subject of REF by Athene Donald “Why I can’t write anything funny about REF“.

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