Familiar knowing look

October 27, 2011

Many academics accept some kind of a social constructivist model of knowledge and conduct qualitative research. Given that this is premised on the axiom that knowledge does not exist independently of the knower and that the societal position of that knower affects what we call knowledge, what are the implications for objectivity and diversity of the social make-up of the research excellence framework subpanels?

The REF's official statistics note that "white British" is the predominant ethnic profile (Analysis of Panel Membership, published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in July). In addition, most members are male, with an average age of about 50. Ninety-five per cent are heterosexual in orientation. A similar profile overall pertained in the final research assessment exercise in 2008.

Chris Holligan, Reader in education, University of the West of Scotland

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