The curse of the 4* category in the RAE has inevitably struck. In my own institution, an excellent department rated in the top category last time round had four times less "world-class" ratings than a previously similarly rated excellent department submitted to a different panel this time round.
This is not an isolated anomaly. Some panels, which involve a range of very different subjects, gave loads of 4*, some very few. Nobody, I hope, is going to maintain, on this basis, that the higher ratings mean that there is more world-class research in certain subject areas than in others.
There evidently will be areas where there is more world-class excellence, but these results have no credibility in showing which they are. It will be vital when the funding is decided to look at the imbalance in such ratings.
One wonders why there seems to have been no central monitoring of such an obvious problem.
Andrew Bowie, Royal Holloway, University of London.