Case study contested

May 9, 2013

I have just finished your 25 April edition (I’m on maternity leave so I don’t have the time to tear through the magazine the minute it pops through the letter box) and Paul Magrs’ response to the research excellence framework impact request he received has astonished me (“Re: Case study request”).

First, the tone of the article is plain condescending: I think the pretension and privilege Magrs speaks of has rubbed off more than he realises. More specifically, the individual responsible for the REF at the University of East Anglia may not have been in residence at the time of Magrs’ tenure there and therefore would have had nothing to do with how he was previously treated, making him undeserving of such vitriol.

Second, REF guidelines concerning impact have been enforced on all institutions, meaning that previous members of staff may well be contacted regarding the work they performed in their old workplaces, regardless of how well treated (or otherwise) they were. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Last, Magrs complains about the courses he had to write at UEA and the books he had to produce. I’m guessing that all that was part of the job description, so why the astonishment? No one in the private sector would expect to be thanked for simply doing their job, so why do those in higher education? (And remember: your employer may well own this intellectual property, no matter how personally invested you feel.)

Magrs complains of what he gets in return for all this inconvenience - a salary - something many these days would feel wholly privileged to have.

Alison Hay


Take that, bibliometrics! Take that, impact assessment! Oh, how good to see such an uninhibited opinion about these absurd systems measuring research in the humanities. Good for you, Paul Magrs!

Rosanna Cantavella
Professor of medieval Catalan culture
University of Valencia

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