Letter: Conflicts of interest

June 8, 2001

In the course of preparing for the latest research assessment exercise and an impending Quality Assurance Agency visit, I have noticed a rather worrying discrepancy between the two concerning conflicts of interest.

QAA subject reviewers are, surely rightly, debarred from assessing an institution if they have recently and unsuccessfully applied for a job there. Indeed, they have to sign a declaration of interests statement to this effect.

By contrast, RAE assessors - as the declaration of interests section of their website makes clear - are not restricted in any such way.

Is the idea that QAA assessors are somehow more likely to bear grudges than are RAE assessors? Why?

Given that the QAA has no external funding implications, while the RAE has significant consequences for funding, it seems bizarre that it is the latter that allows members of the panel to judge institutions towards whom they may feel, perhaps understandably, resentful.

David Owen
Senior lecturer in politics
University of Southampton

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