A further consultation on the 2001 research assessment exercise will be sent to universities later this month. The Higher Education Funding Council for England is seeking views on how it can effectively assess interdisciplinary research, writes Julia Hinde.
The council proposes members of the panels responsible for assessing research should be involved in interdisciplinary research themselves.
Some firm details about the next RAE have already emerged. According to the HEFCE, the next RAE, for which submissions must be made by April 30, 2001, will be similar to the 1996 exercises being based on peer review, but it will include more feedback. Assessment panels will be asked to produce a public report on their working methods and findings, while feedback on submissions will be given in confidence to institution heads.
HEFCE says changes will be made to the way chairs and members of assessment panels are appointed to "reduce the risk of bias and improve transparency". No individual panel member will be allowed to serve in more than two RAE panels.
The funding councils have decided that non-UK researchers will not automatically feature on assessment panels, but panels will be required to consult with a corresponding group of researchers from outside the UK before awarding five or five star ratings.
Responses to the consultation must be in by October, with the funding bodies likely to announce by next spring the number and definition of units of assessment, the membership of panels and details on preparing submissions. Panels will publish final assessment criteria by the end of 1999.