Impact of Stern REF review assessed

August 4, 2016

Re “Stern aims for lower REF workload, more ‘game-changing’ research” (28 July). As someone doing good research, this is how I read the recommendations of Lord Stern’s Review of the UK’s Research Excellence Framework: let’s not make life difficult for underperformers, and, above all else, let’s ensure that successful academics don’t dare move and “rent-seek” (ie, expect a decent wage). More money for administrators and vice-chancellors.

Even more than Brexit, this is a wake-up call for all serious researchers to get out of the UK as soon as possible.


It seems to me there are some distinct and unexamined biases in the report: Stern is thinking from the perspective of employers, rather than employees (ie, researchers, who come across as all rather difficult); concentrates on the sciences rather than the humanities (hence the madness of focusing on the date a publication is contracted); and is focused on bigger and more established universities/departments rather than those with “pockets of excellence”. These recommendations could substantially alter relations between research, researchers and universities.


Re “Will REF ‘portability’ plans hobble early career academics?” (30 July).

The problem with the Stern review is that the group doing it is packed with “the good and the great” and those in high administrative positions. The voice of those affected is hardly heard. Its “Proposal 3” stops game-playing by individuals (who are clearly “rent seekers”) but just replaces this with “rent grabbers” (ie, institutions). It is hardly unexpected that a committee packed with vice-chancellors would want to capture the rents associated with those pesky faculty wanting to be rewarded for their work. And who is more easily exploited than those at the bottom of the food chain? Rest assured that those failing to meet their REF quota will find themselves on the breadline or pushed into teaching positions so that they do not count. Under the old rules, at least they could move someplace else.


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