The REF is bad for researchers and bad for research

The Research Excellence Framework is an instrument of punishment and reward that distorts the things it seeks to measure. UCU’s Rob Copeland sets out in an article appearing in Research Fortnight how the union aims to protect researchers and improve future assessments.


You might call 31 October judgement day in UK higher education. Not only will academic and support staff be taking strike action over pay, it’s also the census date for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

Early this month, the University and College Union published the results of a survey of academic staff perceptions of the REF. About 7,000 responses were received from staff across academic grades and in 153 higher education institutions.

Responses to the UCU survey reflected academics’ long-standing concerns about the detrimental impact of the REF on working conditions and career development, the lack of transparency in selection practices, and the damage to the careers of staff who do not meet institutional REF expectations. For example, institutions have been warning academic staff not included in the REF that they face capability procedures, forcible transfer onto teaching-only contracts and even redundancy

Continue reading at Research Fortnight

  1 comment for “The REF is bad for researchers and bad for research

  1. Patrick
    13 December 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I’m no great fan of the REF, but what we have in all of these articles is whingeing about the REF without any suggestion of an alternative. The REF by nature is meant to focus limited resource on a small percentage of winners. As such a slight majority of academic respondents making complaints just looks like the typical complaints given by bad losers.

    What are the alternatives?
    Leave everything to competition? have us spend all of our time writing grant proposals rather than 50-60%?
    Or perhaps we could designate the Russell group as eternally worthy and only give RG universities research funds.
    Or perhaps we distribute according to a purely metric based system or distribute according to the relative success of research funding.

    All of these would be equally as bad in my view though given that the Russell group get most of the money anyway, I’d be sympathetic to a fixed distribution to stop the waste of time and effort put into each REF/RAE.

    Whatever the case, the UCU complains do not and will not look credible until it comes off the fence in suggesting an alternative.

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