Research must fight status quo 3

November 9, 2007

You are trying too hard to pump up the issue of research assessment exercise exclusion. Of course some people are having a bad experience and some universities are being silly, but the statistics you are shouting about are not remarkable.

In RAE 2001, we had seven grades from "world-beating" to "why did you bother?" and generally only the top three grades, 4 and above, saw any money or kudos. This time, quite sensibly, the four grades are concentrated in that top section and anything else will be "unclassified". A significant amount of unclassified research in your 2008 profile will damage your reputation.

A scan of the 2001 results shows where this is leading. I looked at four "hard" clinical subjects (Units 1-4) and four "softer" more eclectic disciplines (Units 10-12 and 16), 281 departments in all. Some 49 per cent did not reach the 4 threshold, indicating that it would be astonishing if universities did not exclude more research this year.

Meanwhile, your blizzard of speculative statements about exclusion says nothing remarkable or coherent, and the emotive idea that everybody in every university who is not included is excluded is risible. I have not been chosen to play football for England but since I never put myself forward for that job I don't regard myself as "excluded" from the team.

Chris Rust, Head, Art and Design Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University.

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