RAE can 'corrupt' research

March 26, 1999

The research assessment exercise is damaging in both practical and philosophical terms, delegates to a conference on the RAE's intellectual consequences argued this week, writes Harriet Swain.

Charles Martindale, professor of Latin at the University of Bristol, said the RAE was a "rough and ready" measure and did not justify the work put into it by academics that were "obsessed" by it.

He said it discriminated against people who did not conform to a pattern, distorted what was published (because academics concentrated on monographs and articles for important journals and neglected translation, popular writing and reviews) and corrupted "the proper motivation for research - the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, not output within a given period".

Professor Martindale was supported by Leo Walford, journals editor at Sage Publications, who said the RAE had led to salami-slicing of strong research papers into several thinner articles.

Both were responding to Bahram Bekhradnia, policy director of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, who said the RAE was needed to give selective funding and had been refined to fulfil that purpose.

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