Nobody wants their research impact to be graded ‘considerable’ in the REF

For the research excellence framework, academics now have to think hard about the effect of their work outside academia, says Jonathan Wolff, professor of philosophy at UCL. 

Not long left now. Just a few more weeks and someone in each university around the country will press the button and that will be that. No more tinkering, no more polishing, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) documents will be uploaded into the funding council’s groaning server and, short of interfering with the jury, there is nothing we can do until we hear the result in a year’s time.

For the last few years most academics have been living and breathing the REF, agonising about how best to boast about the “reach and significance” of their work or their creation and nurture of “cultural capital”, not to mention their love-in with academic, cultural and commercial partners near and far.

For those lucky enough not to know what I am blithering on about, let me explain. The REF is the latest in a long line of punishments we in the university sector have inflicted on ourselves. This one assesses the comparative quality of our research in order to drizzle money on those judged to be best.

The core part of the submission, thankfully, is our publications. Most researchers must designate four items published between 2008 and 2013. Straightforward enough. Well, no.

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