The proposed concession by some research assessment exercise panels of allowing so-called super-books to count as two items highlights the anomaly of books in general in the RAE ("RAE countdown 2008", July 22).
The average academic article in the humanities is 20 pages: the average academic book is 240 pages, but both count as one item of four. It's completely bonkers. If alcohol consumption were classified in the same way, a bottle of claret would count as a single unit, exactly the same as a half of bitter.
Most of the pernicious effects of the RAE in the humanities, such as escalating the production of unwanted books, could be eliminated by making the monograph as such ineligible for RAE submission. Chapters in monographs would be submissible (and four of them would constitute four items).
Scholarly editions would be valid for entry and sensible decisions would be made about their weighting.
This would eliminate the need to prod young scholars in their twenties into publishing books before they have had time to learn how to write, an inhumane practice akin to the Victorian habit of forcing small boys up chimneys.
University of Wales, Aberystwyth