Which way the whim blows

July 28, 2011

As noted in "REF guidance sets up the starting blocks" (21 July), "if an output involves collaborators from more than one university, all institutions may submit it and panels will assess it on an 'equal basis' to other outputs".

That is true even for different units of assessment in the same institution. But it is not yet true where colleagues in the same unit of assessment have worked and written together. Policy has been delegated to subpanels, has yet to be determined, and may vary from panel to panel. Given the lead time to publication, it is getting a bit late. On the overriding principle of equity, and the operational requirement for consistency imposed on variables such as weighting in contrast to 2008, can the decision be any other than to recognise all contributors, as in the past? If this is not to be so, it undermines the encouragement of collaborative teams given after previous exercises, and makes decisions by those who are leading submissions harder.

May we have a ruling immediately, so that publication strategies for the last few outputs can be fitted into the whims of the research excellence framework decision-makers?

Ian McNay, Professor emeritus, higher education and management, University of Greenwich

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