Still time to influence the impact agenda 4

December 3, 2009

Dave Delpy claims that the petition I posted on the Number 10 website contains a "significant misrepresentation" when it refers to the policy of both the research councils and the research excellence framework to direct funds to projects with significant "impact". He claims that they are simply offering us the chance to think about the wider benefits of our research and encouraging us to do so. Especially in these economically challenging times, what could be wrong with that?

He implies that the many thousands of academics who are appalled by the impact agenda misunderstand the issues, presumably because people like me have misled them. How unreasonable of us to "refuse to at least think about the impact of our work". He is either in denial or being disingenuous - or perhaps a bit of both. The impact agenda is creating powerful incentives for academics to shift the focus of their activities away from scholarship and blue-skies research.

In the arts and humanities, the impact of our work is primarily on other scholars, students and (often indirectly) the general reader. Gradually and imperceptibly, this influences culture in general. However, none of this counts to Delpy and co.

When it comes to the economic and social benefits of research, it is not that we don't care about them, but we do think that the best predictor of impact is academic excellence.

James Ladyman, Department of philosophy, University of Bristol.

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