Loaded questions

December 5, 2013

Carry on screaming: burden of assessment proof heavier now than in 2008” (News, 28 November) is spot on: I am one of those “caffeine-addled” research administrators your coverage characterises, although I don’t think I ever screamed!

There were several other factors that made the research excellence framework so demanding to administer. Yes, understanding the impact requirements was challenging, but the real burden was the resulting need to prepare not just an environment statement but also two impact case studies and an impact template document. As a result, even for a small unit of assessment, REF 2014 required about 150 per cent more pages than the 2008 research assessment exercise.

Although the REF rules recognising individual circumstances were much clearer than the RAE’s, they brought with them the need to collect declarations of such circumstances, which universities had to use to determine the volume of output each staff member required: we assessed hundreds, each needing diligent consideration and verification, given that submission decisions rested on the outcome.

The REF’s burden was also supposed to be reduced by the reuse of Higher Education Statistics Agency data for income and doctoral completions. But as Hesa doesn’t collect data under the REF unit of assessment structure (it was, even in 2012-13, still using the RAE one), we found there was no less to do to prepare the information.

At the same time, getting our submission together and working with colleagues across my institution to meet the deadline has been hugely rewarding. Unless it is the caffeine talking, I’d do it all again in a flash. REF 2020, anyone?

Tim Brooks
REF manager
Anglia Ruskin University

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