Emperor's new impact 2

November 19, 2009

I propose a simple measure of attitude to "impact" in the form of a questionnaire. The research excellence framework rating corresponding to each answer shall be referred to as the "L-index" of the respondent. The ratings are given in brackets, but will not otherwise be made public until REF reports in 2013.

From the list given below, choose one answer only to the following question: what is the social and economic impact of your proposed research?

  • It will quickly make the UK the richest country in the world (0)
  • It will have at least one commercially successful application within three years (1*)
  • It may change the world for the better in some way that I cannot yet foresee (2*)
  • I don't know because I haven't done it yet (3*)
  • Nobody knows, and this is another good reason to do it (4*)

The mean L-index value for a unit of assessment shall count for 25 per cent of its overall REF result.

The L-index pays tribute to James Ladyman of the University of Bristol (see http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/REFandimpact/) and is a metric intended to quantify a useful concept introduced anonymously under Chatham House rules at a round table meeting of the 1994 Group ("Managers and scholars divided as resistance grows to impact agenda", 5 November).

Early adoption of this metric may also defuse controversy. Few wish to see a repetition of such tragic cases as that reported in a recent edition of The Poppletonian ("Campus Horror!", 12 November).

John F. Allen, Professor of biochemistry, Queen Mary, University of London.

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