Letter: Hurdles in the RAE handicap 3

December 21, 2001

May I be allowed a little carping amid the RAE euphoria ("A high five for British research", THES , December 14)? As an academic journal editor, I have played my part in facilitating the publication of peer-reviewed research articles for RAE purposes. In this latest exercise the opinions of distinguished foreign academics were also sought to assess the international standing of research. In the case of business and management studies, one such academic made his comments public and named individuals for praise. It would be interesting to know the basis of his judgements and how important they were in the deliberations of panel members.

More fundamental questions are: does the RAE measure what it is supposed to measure? Does it favour short-term outcomes at the expense of longer-term strategies? How useful are citation counts in the assessment of research quality? And, how can a panel of very busy people accurately assess 96 detailed submissions over such a short period?

In 1995, I was asked to give a lecture on the RAE at an American university. One incredulous member of the audience said that such a system would not work for even one US university, never mind the "whole goddam country".

Brian Towers
Editor, Industrial Relations Journal

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