Impact joke is on us

April 28, 2011

Two letters on research impact make for interesting reading ("Corrosive impact merits only dismissal", 14 April). They also suggest that the age of innocence is not dead, and that Times Higher Education's frequent calls for a modicum of realism and political nous bear further repeating.

As 50 highly distinguished signatories state that "complete freedom is essential", I hear politicians reaching for their rhetoric and the Daily Mail for its pen. John Foster makes the point more bluntly when he says that it is academics' duty to audibly laugh at the government - "a guffaw of derisive dismissal". If only we didn't need and choose to take its money. As it is, we invite derision in turn by claiming that we alone need and deserve complete freedom, whereas politicians, like the media, are rubbish, and civil society, if it exists (echoes of whom?), is just too compromised. May we have the grace to see ourselves as others see us?

Although the impact measurement is strictly unattainable, the choice of research areas, themes, subjects, partners and means of dissemination do deserve serious consideration if research is to be more than a private hobby.

Chris Duke, Leamington Spa

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