More than one in five of those sitting in judgement on the quality of scholarly work in the 2014 research excellence framework will not be academics but instead will be drawn from companies, the government and organisations such as charities.
This is more than double the proportion of research “users” who were included on panels in the final research assessment exercise and is part of the government’s controversial drive to increase the importance of research “impact”.
In the 2008 RAE, the forerunner of the REF, just under 10 per cent of panellists were research “users”.
But in 2014, 20 per cent of overall results will depend on the assessments of research’s impact outside the academy, be it on the economy, society or wider culture. As a result, the number of research users is being increased to reflect this proportion.
On 20 June, 215 new assessors, mainly drawn from outside universities, were announced to “augment the expertise” of the 770 panellists already confirmed, most of them academics, although at the time of going to press their identities had not been revealed.
People from businesses and the public sector will be represented, according to a statement issued by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, as well as figures from charities, thinktanks, the media, libraries, galleries and polling organisations.
Hefce says there will be “significantly more” research users on panels compared with the final RAE.
The users “will help to assess the impact that universities’ research has had on the economy, society and culture”, it adds.
Another 50 panel members are being sought “to fill some remaining gaps in expertise”, the statement says.
On average there will be around six user members on each of the 36 research subpanels, which will assess different areas of scholarship.
The results of the REF will determine how much money each university receives in quality-related research funding, which will total more than £1 billion in England in 2013-14.