CDBU Response to REF Review

In December, Jo Johnson, the Universities and Science Minister, launched a review of university research funding. The goals of the review appear well-aligned with those of CDBU: ‘to cut red tape so that universities can focus more on delivering the world-leading research for which the UK is renowned’. The review is chaired by the President of the British Academy, Lord Stern. CDBU drafted an initial response to the call for evidence, which was then circulated to members for comment before being submitted last week. The full response can be downloaded here.

The main points can be summarised as follows:

The committee needs to take a close look at the purpose of the REF; there has been considerable mission creep and it is trying to do too many different things. Its cost-effectiveness has never been properly evaluated.

Specific suggestions are:

  • Reward institutions that have high levels of staff satisfaction.
  • Reward institutions that foster early-career researchers.
  • Consider a system where funding reflects the number of research-active staff who have contracts extending into the future.
  • Do not use incentives that treat accumulation of research funding as an end in itself.
  • Do not award a higher proportion of funding on the basis of impact.
  • Do not rely on competition to drive up standards: create incentives for more co-operation both within and between institutions.
  • Take steps to encourage a diverse research landscape, rather than creating further concentration of research in a few institutions.
  • Be vigilant about the dangers of introducing criteria that might work well in one discipline but be unsuitable for others

We thank those CDBU members who contributed to our submission, and look forward to covering future developments on our website.