Swansea represented on REF panels

Swansea University will be represented on 5 of the REF sub panels, a good representation for a university of our size. Profs Roger Owen, David Blackaby, Hilary Lappin-Scott and Judith Phillips will be on the expert panels for Civil Engineering, Economics, Business & Management, Earth systems & Environmental Sciences, Social Work & Policy. Full details of membership can be found at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/news/hefce/2011/refpanel.htm

REF Panel Members Announced

Announcement on HEFCE website 21 Feb 2011

The REF team on behalf of the four UK funding bodies today announced the membership of the expert panels for the REF 2014.

Membership of the panels comprises a balance of academic subject experts and those with expertise in the use or contribution of research more widely, as well as members with an international perspective on the main panels.

Further members are still to be appointed by the four funding bodies to a small number of panels. An updated membership list will be published when the process is complete.

The full list of main panel and sub-panel chairs was announced earlier this year.

The REF team will now work with the chairs and members of the panels during 2011 to develop the criteria for the assessment in 2014.

Development of bibliometric indicators for the REF – HEFCE

HEFCE have published  “Analysis of data from the pilot exercise to develop bibliometric indicators for the REF – The effect of using normalised citation scores for particular staff characteristics”

The report analyses the data from the pilot exercise to develop bibliometric indicators for the REF. It analyses the effect of using bibliometrics  (citation scores) in the REF upon  certain types of research staff. For example, early career researchers will be less likely to have many citations. It also looks at age and sex, gender, ethnicity, disability of researchers as well as those who are part-time staff.

The report recommends:

 If citation data are used then the four UK higher education funding bodies will need to ensure that institutions planning to make submissions to the REF are aware of the results of this analysis so that they can take them into account when selecting staff for inclusion. Further, panels will also need to account for the differences found and will require guidance as part of their equality briefing.

RCUK respond to REF pilot report

In a brief press release on their website, RCUK “welcomes the findings of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) pilot scheme that demonstrates it is possible to assess the economic and societal benefits arising from research and how this can be achieved across all disciplines.

Professor Dave Delpy, RCUK Impact Champion said: “RCUK is committed to supporting excellent research that ensures social wellbeing and economic prosperity and ultimately places the UK in a position of leadership on the world stage of research and innovation. We support the wide definition of impact, as set out in this report, which includes social, economic, cultural, environmental, health and quality of life benefits. This reflects the approach already adopted by RCUK through Pathways to Impact.”

RCUK has worked closely with the Funding Councils to ensure that proposals for the REF will be effective in pursuing shared objectives and will continue to support the REF by working with HEFCE to contribute expertise in developing impact assessment methodologies.”

http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/news/101110

REF – Expert panel members being recruited

It was announced today that panel members for the REF are now being recruited. Applications are needed by 17 September. Details of how to apply are available at:  http://www.hefce.ac.uk/research/ref/pubs/2010/01_10/.

The site also contains more detail about the subject coverage of the REF subpanels and the document “Units of assessment and recruitment of expert panels” gives an indication of the work involved in being a panel member.

Blue skies? Willets, the REF, Research Impact and Research Funding

Today, 9th July, the universities and science minister, David Willetts, in a speech to the Royal Institution, confirmed  that the REF is to be postponed for a year.  The problem with measuring economic impact of research would appear to be the primary reason. He has stressed the need to find a reliable measure of impact that would find consensus within the academic community. However, he also expressed the view that the significance of scientific research could not always be measured by its short-term economic impact, as with the unexpected benefits of blue skies research. “”The surprising paths which serendipity takes us down is a major reason why we need to think harder about impact.” Over the next year, the lessons of the pilot exercise and the experiences of other countries (e.g. Star Metrics in the USA) will be drawn upon.

Willetts rejected the previous government’s thinking on funding of scientific research and innovation.

You’re supposed to put money into university-based scientific research, which leads to patents and then spinout companies that secure venture capital backing. The mature business provides tax revenues for the Government, jobs for the local area, a nice profit for the university.

Yet, he said, on average only 3% of university income ever came from commercialisation of  intellectual property.

There were better ways of “harvesting the benefits from research”. Amongst these he said he favoured “clusters”, which he defined as “low-risk environment for high-risk activity”, citing the example of computer games and media companies based around Abertay University.

Government backing for research does make economic sense, he said, and the Research Councils’ funding of scientific research was effective in “generating wider benefits across the economy as a whole”. There may be cuts ahead, but essentially the dual funding system was working and he supported the Haldane principle.

In terms of his own thinking on policy for supporting and developing the research base, he believes that:

  1. Publicly funded research facilities ( Government support for “shared facilities – research platforms if you like – which private companies could not develop on their own”)
  2. Public procurement contracts given to innovative SMEs (“A purchasing contract can be as effective a way to get money to an innovative small business as a grant or a capital investment: this is particularly important at times when banks are so reluctant to lend.”
  3. Public competitions for new technologies (“And it need not be Government which sets the prize or the challenge – it can happen in marketplaces on the web too.”)

You can read the speech in full on the BIS website or read reports from THE & The Engineer.