Teaching Learning & Research
REF and its Impact: Discussion Forum Summary
Many thanks to Peter Stewart, former Chair of the Learning, Teaching and Research group, for organising this well-attended forum.
The forum updated participants on the current situation, and raised a range of questions and concerns.
For the current situation in regard to weighting, definition of, and any other information on REF and ‘impact’, please visit HEFCE and the AAH website: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/Research/ref/; http://www.aah.org.uk/teaching-learning-and-research
According to the current situation, ‘impact’ will not be measured on an individual basis, but will consist of ‘case studies’ (in the proposed ratio of one case study for every 5-10 academics in a department), which will represent the academic institution’s (rather than an individual’s) impact on, as is currently defined by HEFCE, “any identifiable benefit to or positive influence on the economy, society, public policy or services, culture, the environment or quality of life.” Under the current proposals research is weighted as 25% impact, 15% environment and 65% outputs, though the final percentage allocated to impact is likely to go down as a result of the consultation responses.
Discussion focused mainly on two areas, raising a number of questions and concerns:
1. The disappearance of History of Art from the panel title, and the importance of maintaining the discipline as a distinctive category in the panel title (at present it is assumed that the relevant panel will be Art and Design, though this has not yet been confirmed):
- Serious concerns were expressed about the disappearance of History of Art as a discipline from the panel title. It was strongly felt that this amalgamation would damage and deny the existence of the History of Art as a discipline. Not including the History of Art explicitly in the panel title would also mean that a number of departments would consider submitting to different panels other than Art and Design - for example, some discussion participants already associated more closely with the History, Classics and Archaeology panel. Submitting to different panels, due to the absence of a panel that History of Art can fully associate with, would impair the representation of the History of Art as a distinct discipline, and would undermine the possibility to measure excellence coherently within the subject discipline.
2. Possible difficulties and challenges in measuring impact:
- Questions were raised about what qualifies as impact, and how it can be measured.
- Attaining data and information to measure impact might be difficult or impossible. Even in cases where clear, numeric data (for example audience, listening and viewing figures) would be available, difficulties might emerge: The disclosure of this kind of information is often seen as sensitive by the media, public bodies, organisations and institutions. Other problems might include that collaborating institutions are themselves reliant on claiming funding for research as well as demonstrating impact, and might have objections to an academic claiming research and impact for themselves. If research is shared, how would percentage of research impact claimed be decided?
- How can academic impact on ‘independent research users’ (for example galleries, radio and television stations which use academics’ research, but don’t necessarily have to acknowledge it) be measured?
- Who will verify the stated impact?
- How can international impact be measured?
Evelyn Welch reported in the current HEFCE impact pilot, with which she has been involved through Queen Mary. Details are available at:
Many universities are already engaged in their own pilot attempts at composing impact case-studies, and such preparations are advisable.
In order to address and discuss these questions further, future AAH workshops and meetings have been proposed, which will involve inviting and working closely with HEFCE representatives and representatives of 'user' institutions such as national museums.