Objectors to impact are not few, but many

October 22, 2009

David Delpy, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, argues that there is "a risk that those outside the academy would believe that all academics (are) opposed to the idea of economic impact because of a vocal, critical few" ("Knowledge-transfer units swamped as they write impact statements for grant-seekers", 15 October).

As highlighted in Chemistry for the Next Decade and Beyond, the report of the recent International Review of UK Chemistry commissioned by the EPSRC, the council sometimes falls short in terms of communication and engagement with the academic community. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the EPSRC seems unaware of widespread disquiet and frustration regarding the imposition of economic-impact criteria in peer review. The council might, for example, like to refer to the petition "to promote discovery in UK science" at the Number10.gov.uk website, which was highly critical of the impact agenda of Research Councils UK and which attracted 2,294 signatures.

Alternatively, the research councils could gauge the support of university researchers for the impact statement from the sign-up rate to a recently posted petition "to allocate funds solely on the basis of academic excellence" (petitions.number10.gov.uk/REFandimpact/). Or, they could monitor support for the University and College Union's recent "Stand up for research" statement (www.ucu.org.uk/standupforresearch). At the time of writing, the UCU statement had been signed by no fewer than five Nobel laureates.

Perhaps, however, the most effective method of assessing UK academia's opposition to the economic-impact agenda is simply to refer to the responses of universities to the RCUK's consultation on peer review in late 2006 (www.rcuk.ac.uk/research/peer/efficiencypr.htm). The University of Cambridge's description of the plans as "patently silly" provides an accurate synopsis of the overall strength of negative feedback from the sector.

I, for one, find it rather difficult to characterise this sector-wide response as the misgivings of a "vocal, critical few".

Philip Moriarty, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Researcher in the Marine UAS-project

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD Position within Marine Structures

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD Position in Biogas-Hydrogen

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework