Why so negative?

September 10, 2015

In the survey referred to in “Modern languages REF results ‘skewed’ by subpanel merger” (News, 27 August), respondents were asked, “Was the change of panel structure a benefit?” To this, 22 respondents said “no” and 22 said “yes”, with one person responding “I don’t know”. So the conclusion in the article that “about half of the 45 scholars who responded would like to see the current structure changed” is correct, but the conclusion “about half of the 45 scholars who responded see the current structure as beneficial” would have been equally appropriate. To use a headline that refers to results having been “skewed” in favour of linguistics, and to use only quotes from those who are negative, seems a disingenuous and unhelpful way of reporting on the survey.

Contrary to the tone of the article, the outcome of the research excellence framework for modern languages and linguistics suggests there is good reason to celebrate the high quality of research in all areas that fall within the sub-panel. In seven precursor research assessment exercise 2008 sub-panels, the percentage of 4* and 3* research identified ranged from 47 per cent to 58 per cent, whereas the same figure for the REF is 72 per cent. It is time to build on the clear international excellence in research identified by the REF in these areas, not least to address challenges relating to recruitment in modern languages as well as the more general issue of building a new public understanding of these subjects.

Kersti Börjars, University of Manchester, chair, subpanel 28
Charles Forsdick, University of Liverpool, deputy chair, subpanel 28

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