Scots seek strategy to join the RAE elite

May 24, 2002

Scottish ministers need to look at their strategy linking research to economic development in the wake of Scotland's absence from the research elite in the latest research assessment exercise.

This view comes in the first higher education paper from the Scotecon research network, a consortium of all Scottish economics departments.

Monojit Chatterji and Paul Seaman of Dundee University said no Scottish university made the top ten. They said that although Scotland may lack a star institution, it has well above its population share of 5 and 5* researchers. Almost 12 per cent of top researchers are in Scotland, compared with 8.5 per cent of the UK population.

"This suggests that, although its distribution across universities may be somewhat diffuse, the potential contribution of research excellence to economic development is relatively larger in Scotland than in the rest of the United Kingdom," the paper says.

David Bell of Stirling University, co-director of Scotecon, urged ministers to examine the distribution of research excellence and consider if it would be better to have greater concentrations of expertise.

Professor Chatterji believes the Scottish Executive should consider how best to reward research excellence. Concentrating funding on departments at the top of the scale could risk undermining the potential economic benefits of research by "killing" resources for excellent individual researchers in lower-rated departments.

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