Dangerous experiment

October 1, 2009

The least we're entitled to expect from an exercise that claims to assess research excellence is that it embodies research principles ("It's evolution, not revolution for REF", 24 September). When it comes to "impact", the Higher Education Funding Council for England will certainly be performing what Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, calls "an experiment" - but on a living being and without reference to a textbook, never mind anaesthetic.

We can, however, look forward to the rise of a new documentary genre, the "impact case study", the rationale of which is probably clear, but with methodology and conclusions that are anyone's guess. Meanwhile, in the REF's streamlined panels, linguists can look forward to the approving nods or uncomprehending glares of historians, happy in the knowledge that Hefce "does not wish to consider" methods that have been tested.

David Roberts, Birmingham City University.

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