Few respond to consultation on RAE

November 29, 2002

Sir Gareth Roberts has revealed that there were only 30 written responses to the review of research assessment, although he hoped for a last-minute flurry before the consultation ended today.

The first of five meetings on the review was held in Edinburgh this week.

Sir Gareth concluded that most people were thinking in terms of improving the existing RAE rather coming up with a different means of assessment.

When the 200-member audience was asked for a show of hands, a slight majority appeared to favour a radical "core-plus" model, in which a core of money is distributed perhaps on the basis of past success, with the rest going to proposed centres of excellence.

But many members of the audience abstained and others warned that the core-plus model was appropriate only for certain disciplines.

Sir Gareth stressed that assessment need not be "one size fits all".

"I just want to hear some radical new ideas, but they don't seem to be coming," he said.

A key concern of the meeting was that any new system must help and must not discriminate against young researchers who were just beginning projects.

David Bleiman, Scottish official of the Association of University Teachers, said it must also encourage universities to move towards greater job security for researchers.

Sir Gareth said the review expected that the dual-support system would continue, with money coming from the funding and research councils.

But Mr Bleiman said this was based on an assumption that permanent staff, paid by the funding council, applied for cash to hire researchers on fixed-term contracts.

"In future, the funding councils and research councils will need to work together," he said.

One computer scientist at the Edinburgh meeting said the RAE encouraged "safe" research, but there should be a means of rewarding "exciting" research even if this was unsuccessful.

There will now be consultation meetings in Cardiff, Belfast, London and Birmingham.

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