Laurie Taylor Column

November 2, 2006

"What would happen if a British researcher produced four pieces of music as a contribution to the RAE?" - Jonathan Adams, director of the company that supplies citation data for the World University Rankings, The Times Higher , October .

Yes, come in, Doctor Onslow. Now, as you know, I'm deputy head of RAE submissions here at Poppleton and my job is to provide a preliminary assessment of possible staff contributions to the next round. So, let's get cracking. How many pieces of work do you hope to submit?

Four.

Four is good. And could you briefly outline the content of these submissions?

They're basically musical.

Four research papers on music. Excellent.

Not exactly on music. They are music. Four pieces of music. Four quartets.

And how long are these musical quartets?

About 25 minutes each. I have them here if you'd like to take a look.

Thank you. Tell me, how many instruments in each quartet?

Four. It's more or less average for a quartet.

But still on the slim side. And glancing through your work I can't help but notice that on some pages there are rather more notes than others. Page 16 of your second quartet, for example, looks distinctly sparse. I take it that these have all been peer assessed?

They received sustained public applause and two encores at the Wigmore Hall.

I'm sorry, Dr Onslow. If public interest and approval were criteria for RAE submissions we'd all be on a hiding to nothing. Look here, Onslow, my concern is that if work this meagre were accepted we'd be setting a dangerous precedent. Before you knew it we could be faced with even slighter submissions, with trios and duets and even solos. The floodgates would be open.

You'd like a fifth quartet?

Let's not beat about the bush, Onslow. What we're after here is bulk. How about a first symphony?

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