Denham Announces Next Steps to Assess Research Excellence


The next steps in developing the system for allocating more than 1.4 billion in funding to universities for research are announced today by John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The current system for assessing research, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), depends on universities submitting research outputs to subject panels for peer review. The Research Excellence Framework (REF), which will come fully into effect in 2014, will make this exercise more statistically based and less cumbersome for academics.

A new metrics based assessment framework will make greater use of statistical indicators helping reduce the need for peer review. Such indicators could include, for example, the number of times research is cited by other researchers or the amount of external research income a department earns.

Announced today are two modifications to the original plans for implementing the REF which were announced in December 2006. The modifications are in response to further consultation carried out by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Firstly within the single overarching framework, there will no longer be such a clear distinction between the arrangements for science-based subjects and those for all other subjects. So for all subjects the assessment will include metrics-based indicators, including bibliometric indicators of quality wherever appropriate, as well as input from expert panels. The balance of metrics and expert input will vary according to the subject group.

Secondly, in order to allow sufficient time for the development of this more flexible approach, the timetable for designing the new framework will be extended by 12 months.

John Denham said:

"I am very grateful to HEFCE for the work they have done so far to develop the new arrangements as part of what is a technically complex exercise. The response to HEFCE's recent consultation indicated broad support for the proposals for implementation of the new Research Excellence Framework (REF).

"We have listened carefully to feedback from the higher education sector and others. The modifications I have announced to-day address two key concerns which came over very clearly in the consultation responses."

Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

"I warmly welcome this announcement which builds on the progress made over the past year and establishes a strong framework which we can now take forward, working closely with the higher education sector and other key bodies".

Notes to Editors

1. In 2008/09 DIUS will allocate 1.4 billion for quality-related (QR) research that is distributed through the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Parallel arrangements exist in other parts of the UK. Funding is distributed for specific projects and programmes on a UK-wide basis by the Research Councils. Since 1986, the distribution of QR funding has been informed by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which is based on academic peer review of selected research outputs carried out by subject specific assessment panels. The next RAE, which takes place in 2008, will involve 67 subject panels and 15 main panels.

2. In the Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-014 (published in 2004), the Government expressed an interest in using metrics collected as part of the 2008 RAE to provide a benchmark on the value of metrics as compared to peer review, with a view to making more use of metrics in assessment and reducing the administrative burden of peer review. The 10-Year Science and Innovation Investment Framework: Next Steps published with the 2006 Budget (http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/1E1/5E/bud06_science_332.pdf) moved these plans forward by proposing a consultation on a moving to a metrics-based research assessment system after the 2008 RAE. A working Group chaired by Sir Alan Wilson (then DfES Director General of Higher Education) and Professor David Eastwood (then Chief Executive Designate of HEFCE) produced proposals which were issued for consultation on 13 June 2006. The outcome of that consultation was announced in December 2006 as part of the pre-budget report.

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Published on: 2008-04-24

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