Tagged / ref

HE policy update w/e17th March 2017

Brexit:

  • Research Professional illustrates the Brexit threats to research positioning and job losses by highlighting the difficulties facing an EU astronomy consortium. The consortium represents seven countries, led by the UK, but will move headquarters to an EU member state from January 2021. The move means the UK will lose the project’s leadership and the 12 UK universities may not continue post-Brexit. Research Professional notes that while access to research infrastructures is available to non-EU states, the EU membership plays a significant role in decisions on where to locate facilities. Gerry Gilmore (the consortium leader, from University of Cambridge) stated:
    The UK will lose substantial scientific leadership and influence in the EU. There is going to be bad news all around. I don’t think people realise how many new jobs and new opportunities have just been destroyed.”
  • The EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has survived the parliamentary process and received Royal Assent on 16th March (BBC). This bill allows the Prime Minister to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU. The Lords made two amendments to the Bill – one relating to Parliament having a “meaningful vote” on the final arrangements and one requiring a guarantee for EU citizens to remain in the UK. The bill was approved by the House of Commons, which rejected the Lords bill and then went back to the Lords under what is called “ping-pong”. The Lords voted again on both issues but the House of Lords majority backed down and the bill was passed. The PM is expected to trigger article 50 later in March.
  • 2018/19 EU student and staff guarantees: During oral questions in the Lords Baroness Royall of Blaisdon pressed the government spokesperson (Viscount Younger of Leckie) when announcements would be made regarding fees and access to loans for 2018/19 EU student starters. Leckie gave a side stepping response: “The noble Baroness makes the important point that there are uncertainties arising from Brexit, but the Government have moved rapidly to give assurances to this sector… “We have also provided similar assurances that EU nationals starting courses in 2016-17 and 2017-18 remain eligible for Research Council postgraduate support. As I have said, we will ensure that students starting in 2018-19 have the information well in advance

International students:

  • The debate over the inclusion of international students in the long-term migrant numbers continues. Even senior ministers are rebelling – Boris Johnson, Phillip Hammond and Liam Fox have all protested, although Jo Johnson continues to toe the party line backing the PM’s stance to include international students within the original immigration statistics. Liam Fox spoke out this week about the value of overseas campuses.
  • On Monday the House of Lords defeated the government on the Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB), approving an amendment to prevent international students being counted as long-term migrants. The government have responded that “the proposed amendment would create a situation where we were potentially unable to apply basic visa checks, or impose conditions on a student visa. It would also mean that fresh primary legislation were needed just to make minor, technical changes to immigration rules.” (Wonkhe)
  • HERB is scheduled to have its third reading in the Lords on 22 March 2017 and then will go back to the Commons. The PM’s stance on international students seems rock solid (Financial Times) and Theresa May is not expected to waiver – the parliamentary ping pong regarding international students will surely make headlines over the coming weeks.
  • Meanwhile there are worries about student recruitment. Politics Home quotes an Office for National Statistics release stating the number of students coming to the UK dropped by 41,000 in 2016.

Higher Education and Research Bill:

  • The HE and Research Bill has finished its third reading in the House of Lords (although it will have to go back if the House of Commons makes any changes, as seems likely).  The report stage in the Lords is on 22nd March – usually only technical or minor amendments are made at this stage.  The current version of the bill as amended by the Lords is here.
  • The surprise amendment on international students is referred to above.
  • The government won the final vote on the proposed amendment that would have required UKRI and OfS to jointly revoke research degree awarding powers, the amendment was defeated. Wonkhe report that Lord Mackay made an impassioned speech noting that it was “extraordinary” that the OfS was not required to have any expertise or experience regarding research, and yet had the unilateral power to revoke research degree awarding powers, but to no avail. The Bill continues to say that research degree-awarding powers should be made by the OfS with advice from UKRI.

With long debates, late nights and a large number of amendments, it is fair to say that HERB has received an excellent level of scrutiny within the Lords. Lord Prior of Brampton notes: “Everyone who has contributed [to the Bill debates] can take some credit for having improved it considerably. For me, it is a good example of the value this House can bring to a Bill of this kind.”

HEFCE 2017/18 funding to universities: The grant letter details the overall funding to the sector for 2017/18. It includes doubled funding for the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (£60m pa), an additional £17m increase for mainstream quality-related research, a reduction of £40m for teaching (including a reduction in PGT FTE funding rate), maintaining the disabled students premium at the 2016/17 level, the inclusion of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions (£32m), cuts to the student premium budget for full time UG of £20m (part time UG funding remains static). Institutions will receive individual allocations in April although with a publication embargo in force until May. Capital allocations will be announced in March.

Student Loans Sale: A parliamentary question tabled by Steve McCabe requested publication of the ‘in-depth market testing exercise associated with the same of the student loan book. Jo Johnson has responded: “The Government ran a market testing process with a cross-section of potential investors in the student loan book from the end of September into November 2016. This sought feedback on potential sale structures and key features of the transaction and informed the design of the sale. This was a commercial rather than a public process and was conducted under non-disclosure agreements. We do not intend to publish a report of the details. Protecting the details of the conclusions of market testing will help the ongoing sale process achieve value for money for taxpayers.

Student Fees: On Thursday 16th the Petitions Committee released its latest decisions regarding recent petitions with a high number of signatures. This included a petition to government to change the University fees from £9250 back to the £3000 fee. The Committee agreed to wait for the Higher Education and Research Bill to complete its passage through Parliament before deciding whether to schedule a debate – effectively this was a dismissal of the petition.

Research Excellence Framework  The responses to the REF2021 consultation were due in by midday on 17th March.

  • There has been a lot of focus on one area, the definition of “research active staff” for the returns – there are some interesting views:
  • HEFCE blog (and BU’s reply) – HEFCE are proposing a negotiated definition for each university, BU is proposing all staff should be returned, including teaching only
  • Royal Society blog on Research Professional – they say staff shouldn’t be returned at all, it should be institutional
  • The PVC (Research and Enterprise) from Hertfordshire says on Times Higher Education that the solution is flawed and that clarity is needed

There are many other issues in the REF consultation, including the portability of outputs, which will have important consequences for institutions and their staff. The HEFCE REF consultation on the implementation of the REF 2021 closed on 17 March 2017.  You can read BU’s response here.

Blog by the Vice-Chancellor – what next for the Teaching Excellence Framework

The BBC 2 series “Meet the Lords” could not have been better timed. The House of Lords has flexed its muscles on the Article 50 Bill and this week’s episode coincided with them passing an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill (HE Bill) that breaks the link between the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and fees. Since then another amendment has been passed that would change the nature of the TEF, and bring it under Parliamentary scrutiny.

It would be easy to dismiss these (as some have done) as acts of rebellion by a non-elected chamber that is in the case of the HE Bill, representing vested interests in the face of a genuine government attempt to reform a sector that is badly in need of it. The Department for Education could be forgiven if they had thought that the HE Bill was nearly home and dry. They had published a long list of amendments which had been largely welcomed by the sector. The TEF does not require Parliamentary approval. Universities UK and GuildHE, amongst others, had expressed support for the HE bill as amended and expressed support for the TEF – opposing the addition of more detail as it would reduce flexibility in future negotiations on the detail. But the House of Lords did not agree – they have not sought to add more detail in the TEF, but to change its nature completely. Reading the debates, it is clear that members of the House of Lords, like most of the sector, generally support the objectives of TEF in bringing focus on the quality of education and student outcomes. They support the provision of more and better information about universities for applicants and others. They, like many in the sector, also generally support an inflationary increase in fees.

In the latest amendment, the provisions for the TEF in clause 26 have been removed and the new clause instead requires the Secretary of State to bring forward a scheme to identify whether an institution meets or fails to meet expectations based on quality standards but it “must not be used to create a single composite ranking of English higher education providers”.  The arguments are neatly summarised by Lord Lucas: “Bronze will be seen as failing because these universities will be marked out as the bottom 20%. This is just not necessary. We have succeeded, in our research rankings, in producing a measure of sufficient detail and sophistication for people to read it in detail. It produces quite marked differences between institutions, but nobody reads it as a mark of a failing institution. It is information, not ranking…”.

An earlier amendment removed the differentiation between fees based on different ratings. The speeches in the House of Lords demonstrate that they are opposed to this link for different reasons, for example:

  • Baroness Deech “If we detach fees from gold, silver and bronze, we stand a chance of increasing social mobility under the amendment. If we do not, social mobility will be frozen and ghettoisation will increase.”
  • Baroness Wolf of Dulwich: “I want to cite three groups of academics ….all of which feel, as do students, that in their current state the TEF metrics are not up to the job of determining fee levels and that, until we are sure that we have valid and reliable measures, we should not do this.”
  • Lord Lipsey : “… what seems knocking on bizarre is to plough on with bringing in this link between fees and the TEF before we have got the TEF right….The Government would give themselves the best chance of proving themselves right and the sceptics wrong if they gave time for the TEF to settle down before they brought in the fees link.”
  • Lord Kerslake: “My second reason for not making the link is that the TEF rating will relate to the university, not the subject or course. We will not see subject-level ratings until 2020 and yet we know that it is perfectly possible to have a mediocre course in an otherwise excellent university, and indeed vice versa. It can be argued that the TEF ranking gives an indication of the overall ​student experience at a particular institution, but the variation which so obviously exists within institutions makes that argument quite unconvincing.”

Except for the subject level fee point (which has not become a topic of debate yet), these are all arguments that were made by the sector in responding to the Green Paper and the TEF consultation. These are all things that we have continued to raise as we discuss the implications of subject-level TEF.

So as it stands, the TEF has lost both of its “incentives” – aka its carrot and its stick, which were both in the form of the impact on fees and reputation. It is not at all clear what will happen next – some ideas are given in this Wonkhe blog. In blogs on the Times Higher Education, Maddaleine Ansell of the University Alliance and Sorana Vieru gave very different perspectives.

So what compromise could there be to address all the concerns and yet still preserve the positive aspects of the TEF – i.e. the increasing focus on education and outcomes? I go back to BU’s response to the Green Paper, when we said that the TEF should model itself on the REF.. It should celebrate excellence wherever it is found, there should not be a link with tuition fees and there should be no forced ranking. To achieve that now, a remodelled TEF could include the following features:

  • no link to fees
  • have two rather than three levels of award – perhaps indicating good and outstanding. The last category is those who fail their quality assessment and don’t qualify for TEF.
  • take a different approach to benchmarking that does not force differentiation
  • include a place for commendations

I am not convinced by the argument that no-one would participate in the TEF without the direct financial incentive. That does not hold true for the REF. The REF has increased the focus on impact and had a beneficial impact on research. (We have some reservations about the changes proposed in the latest REF consultation, but that is a separate issue.) The concerns about the TEF would be mitigated substantially if the Olympic rating system and the link to fees were dropped. The sector would be able to engage in a much more constructive debate about subject-level TEF.

The TEF does not need to be thrown out completely – but this is an opportunity to go back to where this started from and ensure that the TEF brings focus on the quality of education and student outcomes.

HE policy update w/e 24th February 2017

Jo Johnson spoke at a UUK conference today and made a number of important announcements:

  • New government amendments to the Higher Education and Research Bill. The detailed amendments have not yet been published but a Department for Education factsheet has been provided. The government amendments have been welcomed so far. See the Latest set of proposed amendments (mostly opposition amendments but some government ones too) – this will clearly grow more before the report stage starts on 6th March 2017. See more below.
  • Importantly, he announced that the subject level TEF would have a two year pilot – starting in 2017/18 but also running through 2018/19. Subject level TEF would then be formally implemented in 2019/20, with ratings that are announced around May 2020 with the Year 5 institutional level ratings. Note that it is currently not intended that subject level TEF will result in subject level fees. There was no mention of TEF for post-graduate, which was originally planned to run in year 4, so assessed during 2018/19.
  • Accelerated degrees – Jo Johnson also wrote in the Times about the government response to the consultation on accelerated degrees and credit switching (that closed last July with 1000s of responses) which will be issued shortly, and relevant changes that will be made to the HE Bill.  Apart from the headline grabbing focus on universities being able to raise fees above £13,000 a year, this consultation response will probably contain interesting stuff on credit transfers between universities.  The headline focus on fees is a little bit misleading, because this is in response to sector feedback that it isn’t possible to provide three years of teaching in two years unless fees are increased for those two years (there were many other comments about the impact on extra- and co-curricular activities, as well as cost).  The higher fees would only apply to accelerated degrees, as The Times story makes clear.
  • He also announced a number of other changes regarding institutional and research autonomy which are very helpful – more detail is given below.

HE and Research Bill – As mentioned above, the amendments continue to accumulate for the Lords report stage of the HE bill with the latest government amendments yet to be published. See the latest round up from Wonkhe here. One joint government and Labour amendment (to replace the opposition amendment passed in the House of Lords) defines institutional autonomy, and a number of others require the OfS to protect that autonomy. The definition that is proposed is set out below:

  • There is a new transparency duty – one that did seem to be an omission in the previous drafting. The TEF reflects the new focus on widening participation away from just access to progression and outcomes, but the HE Bill did not reflect this fully in the transparency duty as originally proposed. This has now been picked up, and the proposed amendment (which we have not seen yet) will require providers to publish information on levels of attainment, in addition to application, offer, acceptance and completion rates, broken down by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.
  • After the long and energetic discussions in the Lords about the Haldane principle, research autonomy and the many concerns expressed about the role of the Secretary of State, a number of amendments have been tabled 9but not yet published) including one explicitly about the Haldane principle
  • There is a response to the criticism of the limitations on the role of Innovation UK and some of its financial arrangements – we don’t have the detail on all of it but the business focus amendment is set out in the explanatory paper
  • As noted above, the announcement on accelerated degrees requires a change to the HE Bill to allow for higher fees for accelerated degrees – the DfE paper is clear that the overall cost of a degree will not go up – but universities will be allowed to charge more per year for the more intensive short courses.
  • On credit transfer, the proposed amendments will apparently require the OfS to monitor and report on arrangements for student transfer and a power for them to encourage and promote it.
  • There are a number of more technical amendments proposed, including to protect institutions in cases where degree awarding powers may be revoked, to protect Royal Charters and to ensure that the OfS does not meddle in institutional autonomy as regards standards. These changes will be most welcome, and BU, along with most of the sector has called for these changes, and we are looking forward to seeing the detail.

Other proposed opposition amendments include:

  • yet another attempt to change the name of the OfS – this time to the Office for Higher Education Standards. Given that the government have just confirmed that the OfS should not meddle in standards (see above), this amendment seems unlikely to pass.
  • and another attempt to address student loan repayment terms and conditions – this has been raised at every opportunity so far but has not yet been subject to a vote.

The HEFCE grant letter is out, with extensive coverage.  Research Professional report that:

  • Teaching funding will fall, representing nine consecutive years of reductions- it is due to be cut by 5 per cent in 2018-19—and the funds now also have to cover the expansion of medical schools and include trainee nurses, midwives and other health professionals. This is particularly interesting because of the theory that removing the commissioning arrangement will increase student numbers, balanced against concerns in the sector about falling applications and the real-life challenge with increasing student numbers, i.e. placements – On the latter point, Research Professional note the part of the HEFCE letter that “adds that in order to implement the Department of Health announcement that, from September 2018, the government would fund up to 1,500 additional student places in medical schools each year, the funding council should make an initial allocation of 500 places in 2018-19 “based on the capacity for growth and viability of provision in different institutions and be informed by advice from the Department of Health and Health Education England on the distribution of medical placements
  • On PG: “The letter further asks that the funding council ensures it pays for postgraduate courses on a basis that is “consistent with and complementary to” the new postgraduate loan system. In particular the funding council is asked to prioritise science and other high cost subjects.”
  • On TEF: “It asks the funding council to continue funding the introduction of the teaching excellence framework, including the subject-level pilots, for which the budget and approach will be determined later in 2017. The letter further encourages the continued funding of the “high priority” learning gain pilots” – which may give us an idea of where TEF metrics may be headed
  • On schools: “On social mobility, government asks the funding council to continue encouraging “innovative” forms of engagement with schools, including work to identify which institutions are sponsoring or establishing schools and the support they require to achieve it.” This sounds like a slight backing away from compulsory sponsorship of schools? Or maybe just preparation for identifying those who don’t comply.
  • On research:  “the letter says that detailed allocations for the £4.7 billion of additional investment pledged in the autumn statement will be finalised in early March. The funding council is expected to distribute the additional research and knowledge exchange funding allocation in 2017-18. The £100 million announced for technology transfer, meanwhile, will be based on competitive mechanisms that the funding council will develop with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.”
  • And on student wellbeing: “The letter further asks the funding council to implement recommendations made by the Universities UK taskforce on violence, sexual harassment and hate crimes, which advocated the embedding of a zero-tolerance culture towards such incidents on campus. It also recommends the creation of an evidence base around mental health needs and services for staff and students.” The latter cross refers to a UUK good practice guide.
  • Other issues include plagiarism, credit transfer, REF, degree apprenticeships, Prevent and efficiency.

BTEC students – the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have issued a report on BTECs and Pearson have blogged for them.  The report concludes that “Students arriving at university with BTECs account for much of the growth in students from the lowest participation neighbourhoods and other under-represented groups over the past decade. But those with BTECs face a ‘glass ceiling’ – for example:

  • only 15 BTEC students were accepted at the four most selective higher education institutions in 2015; and
  • under 60 per cent of students with BTECs at Russell Group universities complete their course.”

The report makes the following policy recommendations:

  • As the proportion of pupils achieving the highest BTEC grades (equivalent to three A-Levels) more than doubled from 17% to 38% between 2006 and 2013, the Government should evaluate whether the current system of external verification of BTECs is fit for purpose.
  • Universities should issue collective guidance on which BTECs are most valuable to students in terms of progression, as they have already done for A-Levels.
  • More prestigious universities with low numbers of BTEC students should consider bespoke access courses for BTEC students aimed at helping them adjust to the methods of teaching and assessment that are common in higher education.

Lifelong learning – The University Alliance issued a report on lifelong learning which calls for a number of actions, including setting up a UCAS style system for adult learning courses, reintroducing individual learning accounts and providing additional loans. They also mention accelerated degrees and suggest broadening the apprenticeship levy to cover such course.

Essay Mills – Jo Johnson called this week on universities to do more to stop students buying custom written essays online. He has asked the QAA to prepare guidance for universities and information for students to help combat the use of ‘essay mills’ websites as well as other forms of plagiarism and for the QAA to take direct action against those marketing the services. It looks as if the guidance will focus on making sure that universities have policies and sanctions in place.

“The Universities Minister has asked for guidance aimed at universities and information for students to help combat the use of these websites, as well as other forms of plagiarism. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has also been tasked to take action against the online advertising of these services and to work with international agencies to deal with this problem.

The Minister is calling for the guidance to include tough new penalties for those who make use of essay mills websites, as well as the need to educate students about the potentially significant negative impacts on their future career if they are caught cheating.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: “This form of cheating is unacceptable and every university should have strong policies and sanctions in place to detect and deal with it“. Essay mill websites threaten to undermine the high quality reputation of a UK degree so it is vital that the sector works together to address this in a consistent and robust way.””

Brexit – The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published the terms of reference and membership of its “high level stakeholder working group on EU exit, universities, research and innovation”.

“The overarching purpose of the group is to provide a forum for BEIS, DfE, DExEU, and a broad range of UK representatives of the universities, science, research and innovation communities to discuss issues of common interest in approaching the UK’s exit from the EU. The emphasis will be on considering all factors related to research and innovation that need to be taken into account as government policy develops.”

Membership includes Jo Johnson, Madeleine Atkins, Nicola Dandridge, and the chairs of Million Plus, the Russell Group, GuildHE and the University Alliance, a couple of VCs and PVCs from the devolved administrations (Heriot-Watt, Ulster, Cardiff)  and representatives of a number of science bodies such as the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and others, CBI, RCUK, UKRI.  And Sir Mark Walport in his current role as the Government Chief Scientific Adviser.  Interestingly, none of the bodies represented are arts or social sciences bodies, which continues to demonstrate the apparent assumption in all of these groups on research as an activity that is only relevant to STEM.

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have intervened following a complaint to OIA from students that didn’t receive sufficient notice that compulsory modules had been introduced to their course. While UEA was not considered by OIA to have breached its rules the CMA have asked UEA to change its policy and consider the introduction of compulsory modules as a substantial change which would require greater timeliness of notice in future. CMA’s intervention is seen as a landmark intrusion by some. The CMA request is discussed further by Jim Dickinson and Paul Greatrix on Wonkhe. UUK also have a blog on the subject.

HEFCE consultation on REF2021 – what you need to know

ref-logoIt hardly feels like the dust has settled on the results from the last Research Excellence Framework, yet here we are again – almost half way through another research assessment cycle with HEFCE proposing potential changes to the next exercise. It feels like I’ve been transported back to 2009 when HEFCE were running bibliometrics and impact pilots to inform REF2014. I have to remind myself that it is in fact 2017 and things have moved on. We are now talking about REF2021 (how time flies!) and HEFCE have launched a consultation on how this exercise might work. Whilst citations and impact are still on the agenda for discussion, they are joined by other substantial changes that, if adopted, will transform the shape and potentially outcome of the next exercise.

The proposed changes have been informed by Lord Stern’s independent review of the REF which was published last July. This made 12 recommendations on how the next REF could be strengthened, whilst reducing the bureaucracy and cost of running the exercise (read Jane Forster’s overview of the recommendations – Stern review of the REF: what next?). These recommendations have now been reviewed by the four UK HE funding bodies and, prior to Christmas, HEFCE published proposals to amend the REF to incorporate the recommendations. HEFCE’s proposals are now open for consultation with the sector.

The document itself is fairly lengthy and dense, and over 40 questions are put forward for consideration. The key proposals are:

  • All research-active staff to be submitted
  • The decoupling of staff from outputs
  • Outputs will no longer be portable across institutions
  • All outputs must be available in open access form (with some exceptions)
  • Impact will have a broader definition
  • Institutional environment narratives and case studies to be submitted

There are some excellent summaries available online, many of which provide thoughts on what the proposals could mean in practice. The following summaries are particularly informative and worth reading: HEFCE launches consultation on REF2021, Soft Stern or Hard Stern and Implementing REF2021.

BU will be submitting an institutional response to the consultation before the deadline of 17th March. As these are significant proposals, all staff will have the opportunity to contribute to the response. As a number of the key questions would benefit from a discipline-level response, UoA teams (UoA leaders, impact champions and output champions) are calling meetings within Faculties to hold discussions related to their own UoA. These will take place over the next month or so. Contact a member of your UoA team for further information. Staff not based in Faculties are also invited to comment on the proposals and can do so via their Director/Head of Professional Service.

The are various REF-focused conferences and events taking place over the next few months, organised by HEFCE, ARMA, etc. Interesting news from these will be posted to the Research Blog. HEFCE are anticipating significant sector-wide engagement with the proposals and have committed to reading all feedback received. It is anticipated that, following the consultation, the initial decisions regarding the shape of REF2021 will be published in summer 2017.

From Draft to REF with CEMP’s new Publishing Partnership Initiative

Do you have an incomplete paper that you’ve been sitting and can’t seem to finish? Have you recently presented at a conference, but haven’t written-up a paper out of your presentation yet? Did you get a rejection and are struggling to get motivated again? Or maybe you’ve written a couple chapters of your PhD and are hoping to turn one into a publication?

Whatever the scenario, CEMP’s new Publishing Partnership Initiative (PPI) can help you to collaborate with another researcher to turn your ideas into a viable REF-ready journal article. And did we mention, you can win a free dinner for two?


Publishing Partnership Workshop
Thursday January 26th
Talbot Campus, BU
11:00-14:00
WG 05 (Weymouth House)

To launch the initiative, this workshop will introduce the Publishing Partnership Initiative and help you find a good match to develop your REF output. We will also discuss strategies and tips for working toward REF submissions:

11:00-11:15 Introductions and coffee

11:15-11:30 Welcome to the PPI scheme (Anna and Richard)

11:30-12:00 Hear No Evil, See No Evil: What you need to know about REF and the Sterne review (Julian & Dan J)

12:00-12:45 Interactive session: Strategies for fitting writing into our busy schedules (Brad & Karen)

12:45-13:15 Academic Match.com: Finding the right journal and writing partner for your research output (Anna and Isa)

13:15-14:00 Catered planning lunch with our publishing partners

To participate: Send a 500+ word rough draft or outline of a potential research paper to afeigenbaum@bournemouth.ac.uk AND Richard rberger@bournemouth.ac.uk by Monday 23rd January 2017. This might be an abandoned draft, a conference version of a paper presentation or an outline for a possible research paper. At this stage, any draft you have might be gold, so don’t be shy!

To be a mentor or writing partner: Send an email with a list of your research and methodological areas of expertise to afeigenbaum@bournemouth.ac.uk AND Richard rberger@bournemouth.ac.uk by Monday 23rd January 2017.

 

Eat your Success! Partners who successfully submit a paper to a peer review journal within the 5 month time frame will receive a ‘dinner for two’ voucher to celebrate their success.*

*Voucher is worth up to £45.00. Does not cover alcoholic beverages.


We will aim to pair colleagues around expertise either in the same research area or in relation to the methodological approach. At least one partner will be accustomed to journal publishing and the REF process, as well as to the challenges facing us to find the time to research and write. In the first instance, this workshop is geared toward UoA 25, 34 and 36 entries (covering Education, Media Practice and Media Studies). For full details see: http://www.civicmedia.io/events-2/publishing-partnership-initiative/

*This project was initiated by Anna Feigenbaum and Richard Berger. It is supported by the UoA 25 development fund, CEMP, the Civic Media Hub & the Journalism Research Group.

How to Write a 4* Article

Prof. Mark Reed

A fortnight ago Prof Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University and the man behind Fast Track Impact, tweeted some thoughts on how to write a 4* paper for the REF. He went on to explain his thinking in more detail in a guest post on the Research Fundementals blog, the post is published here with the authors permission.

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How do you write a 4* paper for the Research Excellence Framework (REF)? It is a question I’ve asked myself with some urgency since the Stern Review shredded my REF submission by not allowing me to bring my papers with me this year to my new position at Newcastle University.

Obviously the answer is going to differ depending on your discipline, but I think there are a few simple things that everyone can do to maximize their chances of getting a top graded research output.

I’m going to start with the assumption that you’ve actually done original, significant and rigorous work – if you haven’t then there is no point in reading any further. However, as I am increasingly asked to pre-review papers for colleagues across a range of disciplines, I am seeing examples of people who write up work as a 2* or 3* paper that has the potential to get a better score. I should point out that I believe that there is an important role for 1* and 2* papers, and that I regularly write these on purpose to address a problem of national significance and frame it for the specific, narrow audience that is likely to be able to benefit most from my work. However, whether I like it or not, as a Professor in a research-intensive University, there is an expectation that I will be submitted as a 4* researcher, which means I need a few 4* papers as well.

You can see some more detailed thoughts on what I think makes 4* for different types of paper in this Tweet:

As you’ll see from the discussion under that tweet though, my more detailed thoughts probably only apply to Units of Assessment across panels A-C, and probably isn’t relevant to the arts and humanities.

Having said this, I think there are a number of things we can all do to maximize the chances of our work being viewed favourably by REF panelists.

  1. Write to the criteria: when I was learning to drive, my instructor told me that in the test I should make sure I moved my head when I was looking in the rear view mirror, to make sure the examiner noticed I was using my mirrors. We’re all used to writing to the criteria of funding calls, and in fact we are all perfectly used to writing papers to the criteria of our target journals. In the last REF, research outputs were judged against three criteria: originality, significance and rigour. Whatever the interpretation of these criteria in your discipline, have you made it explicit to REF panelists reading your work exactly what is original, and why it is so original? Have you explained and effectively justified the significance of your work? And have you included evidence that your methods, analysis and interpretation is rigorous, even if you have to use supplementary material to include extra detail about your methods and data to get around journal word limits?
  1. Get REF feedback before you submit your work for publication: find out who is going to be reviewing research outputs for REF internally within your Unit of Assessment at your institution and ask them to review your work before you submit it. They may be able to make recommendations about how you might improve the paper in light of the REF criteria. Sometimes a little bit of extra work on the framing of your research in relation to wider contexts and issues can help articulate the significance of your work, and with additional reading and thinking, you may be able to position your work more effectively in relation to previous work to demonstrate its originality more clearly. Adding a few extra details to your methods and results may re-assure readers and reviewers that your approach is indeed rigorous. This is not just about doing world-leading research; it is about demonstrating to the world that your work is indeed world-leading. For me, these criteria are nothing new and are worth paying attention to, whether or not we are interested in REF. Meeting these three criteria will increase the chances that you get through peer-review and will increase the likelihood that your work gets cited.
  1. Analyse and discuss good practice in your own area: the only way to really “get your eye in” for REF is to actually look at examples of good and poor practice in your own area. Below, I’ve described how you can design an exercise to do this with your colleagues. You can do it yourself and learn a lot, but from my own experience, you learn a lot more by doing this as a discussion exercise with colleagues who work in your area. If you can, take notes from your discussion and try and distill some of the key lessons, so you can learn collectively as a group and more effectively review and support each others’ work.

How to organize a discussion to work out what makes a 4* paper in your area:

  • Identify top scoring institutions for your Unit of Assessment (UOA): download the REF2014 results, filter for your UOA (columns E or F), then filter so it only shows you the outputs (column J), and then filter for 4* (column L), showing only the institutions from your UOA that had the highest percentage of 4* outputs. Now for those institutions, look across the table (columns L-P) to see which has the highest proportion of outputs at either 3* or 4*. For example, an institution may have 80% of its outputs graded at 4* and 15% graded at 3*, meaning that 95% of its outputs were graded at 3-4*
  • Download a selection of papers from the top scoring institutions: go to your UOA on the REF website, find and click on the institutions you’ve identified in step 1, under “view submission data”, click on “research outputs”, copy and paste output titles into Google Scholar (or your search engine of choice) and download the articles. You may want to select outputs randomly, or you may want to go through more selectively, identifying outputs that are close to the areas your group specialize in
  • Repeat for low scoring institutions so you can compare and contrast high and low scoring outputs
  • Discuss examples: print copies of the high and low scoring outputs, labeled clearly, and in your next UOA meeting, let everyone choose a high and a low-scoring example. Given them 10-15 minutes to quickly read the outputs (focusing on title, abstract, introduction, figures and conclusions so you’re not there all day) and then ask the group (or small groups if there are many of you) to discuss the key factors that they think distinguish between high and low scoring outputs. Get your group(s) to distill the key principles that they think are most useful and disseminate these more widely to the group, so that anyone who wasn’t present can benefit.

It would be great if I could tell you that these are my “three easy ways to get a 4* paper” but doing work that is genuinely original, significant and rigorous is far from easy. If you have done work that is of the highest quality though, I hope that the ideas I’ve suggested here will help you get the credit you deserve for the great research you’ve done.

Stern review of the REF – what next?

ref-logoThe Stern review of the REF was published in July 2016. The government have accepted the main recommendations, and we are expecting in November a HEFCE technical consultation on implementation – to affect the next REF exercise (probably in 2021). It is expected that the new arrangements will be settled by the summer of 2017.

So what did Stern recommend – and what is likely to be in the consultation?

  1. The main thing that Stern might have done, but did not do – following widespread concern in the sector – was move to a metrics-based approach for the REF. Peer review and case studies will remain and there will be an opportunity to celebrate success wherever it is found in the REF – not a metrics based ranking. There may be new metrics, and a new Forum for Responsible Research Metrics has been launched, but the key is that these metrics should be used responsibly and carefully.
  2. All research active staff should be returned in the REF (and allocated to a unit of assessment).
  3. Outputs should be submitted at Unit of Assessment level with a set average number per FTE, but with flexibility for some faculty members to submit more and others less than the average. A total cap should be set based upon two outputs on average per FTE with an individual cap (e.g. six) and a minimum per FTE (potentially 0).
    There has been some concern expressed about these changes – Maddalaine Ansell (University Alliance) via Wonkhe and James Wilsdon in The Guardian, 29th July 2016. At BU, our strategy is that all academic staff should be active in research as part of Fusion, so we will not be moving towards teaching only contracts. We hope the sector will not do so either – we will consider pressing for all staff to be included and remove any risks around the definition of “research active” to avoid this
  1. The total number of outputs per UoA should be adjusted so that it does not significantly exceed the 190,000 reviewed in REF2014. This may require the average number of outputs submitted per faculty member to be below two.
  2. Outputs should not be portable. The review proposes that outputs should be submitted by the HEI where the output was demonstrably generated and that work should be allocated to the HEI where they were based when work accepted for publication. There may be some flexibility around maximum numbers when staff have moved- e.g. maximum three outputs from those who have left.
    Concern has been expressed that this will restrict employment options for early career researchers, e.g. Paul Kirby. James Wilsdon again “the broader move to reduce output numbers and decouple them from individuals should reduce pressure on those at the start of their career, or who take time out of research because of childcare, illness or caring responsibilities” Other views: – it might be fairer to early career researchers who will be recruited on potential not previous publications
  1. Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting institutional level impact case studies
  2. Impact should be based on research of demonstrable quality. However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs
  3. Guidance on the REF should make it clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socioeconomic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, public engagement and understanding, cultural life, academic impacts outside the field and impacts on teaching – the report recommends that research leading to impact on curricula and/ or pedagogy should be included. BU welcomes these changes and we look forward to seeing more details of these plans.

So watch this space – once the consultation is launched the Research and Knowledge Exchange team will be working with the policy team to prepare a BU response. You can read more about BU’s policy and public affairs work on our intranet pages.

What makes good evidence of research impact?

Bokani Tshidzu

Bokani Tshidzu

Join us on Friday 27 May at 12.00 to find out how to evidence impact from research in a session by Bokani Tshidzu, Chief Operating Officer of impact consultancy Vertigo Ventures.

The session will outline the types of impact evidence that researchers can collect and online tools that can be used to gather this data. Attendees have an opportunity to consider the stakeholders involved in their research and find out how best to collect evidence of impact from different groups. There will also be a chance to find out more about the types of high-scoring evidence that was used in each panel during the last REF.

Book your place via Eventbrite

The session will take place in Kimmeridge House (KG03) Talbot campus from 12.00 – 14.00.  Light refreshments will be provided but please feel free to bring your lunch along.

impact wordle 3
This session forms part of a series of research impact seminars and workshops, organised by RKEO to explore the various pathways to achieving societal and economic impact.  Within the series, attendees will explore methods for effectively engaging a variety of research users throughout the research process, and develop new ways to plan, deliver and evidence impact.

 

View the other events in the series or email Genna West for further information.

How did research fare in the BIS funding letter to HEFCE?

The HEFCE grant letter (sent from BIS to HEFCE) for funding in 2016-17 was published on 4th March and contains some information on RKE funding that you may find of interest.

ref-logoREF

  • HEFCE is asked to take account of the Stern Review outcomes in developing proposals for the next REF, which should be completed by the end of 2021. This suggests submission will be in autumn 2020.
  • Open access and open data continue to be priorities.

 

moneyResearch funding

  • The letter reaffirms the Government’s commitment to the dual support system.
  • It confirms that the science and research budget will be ring-fenced.
  • Mainstream QR will continue to be allocated based on selective funding of world-leading and internationally excellent research with impact wherever it is found.
  • Funding will continue to be available for PGRs and leverging external funding from the charitable and business sectors (current RDP Supervision, QR Charity Support Element, and QR Business Support Element funding).
  • An additional £400m will be allocated via the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund through to 2021.

 

Research Councils

  • The letter states the Government is taking forward the recommendation from the Nurse Review that the seven councils are brought together under Research UK.

 

HEIF

  • The Government recognises the important role of HEIF and expects HEFCE to introduce a long-term methodology for allocating HEIF funding in future.
  • In the meantime, HEFCE will maintain HEIF allocations at current levels with a continued focus on outcomes-based funding approaches.

 

NCUB-Logo-LargeNCUB

 

You can access the full letter here: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/news/newsarchive/2016/Name,107598,en.html

 

Stern review of the REF – contributions welcome

ref-logoBIS have initiated a review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), chaired by the President of the British Academy, Lord Nicholas Stern.

The review aims to ensure that future university research funding:

  • is allocated more efficiently;
  • offers greater rewards for excellent research; and,
  • reduces the administrative burden on institutions.

The call for evidence was published on 28 January and BU will be submitting an institutional response to the review. You are invited to contribute to this response.

The call for evidence, question set and timeline are available on the I-drive: I:\R&KEO\Public\Stern Review of the REF

If you wish to contribute, use the ‘questions’ document to frame your responses. The internal deadline for sending your feedback to Julie Northam is Wednesday 17 February. The draft response will be discussed by the REF Committee on 29 February, and the final draft shared with UET on 10 March.

When considering your responses please bear in mind Bournemouth University’s response to the green paper on HE which contained similar questions on the future shape of the REF. You may find it helpful to consider other responses to the green paper to understand the range in perspectives provided by institutions and groups. You can search for responses online. Suggested responses you may wish to read include:

I look forward to receiving your feedback and suggestions. Any queries, please let me know.

Julie

Nominations invited from ECRs to join the REF Circumstances Board

ECRsThe BU REF Circumstances Board has been established to oversee the individual staff circumstances process for the post-2014 REF exercise. This includes:

  • determining whether individual staff circumstances submitted by BU academics meet the REF eligibility requirements;
  • verifying the evidence provided;
  • calculating the reduction in outputs using the methodology set out in the REF guidance documentation and the ECU case studies;
  • contributing to BU’s culture of equality and diversity.

ref-logoThe Board is chaired by a Senior HR Manager with support from the Equality and Diversity Adviser and a member of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office. These post-holders will be selected based on their prior knowledge and expertise in individual staff circumstances and equality and diversity issues. Membership will also include three academics and an early career researcher (ECR).

We are now seeking expressions of interest from ECRs who are interested in joining the Circs Board. Successful applicants will be required to attend meetings of the BU REF Circumstances Board (schedule tbc, but likely to be one or two meetings per year), be aware of the REF guidance and regulations, undertake equality and diversity training, and promote a positive culture of equality and diversity at BU. We therefore ask for your commitment, active contribution and, most importantly, confidentiality due to the sensitive work of the Board. In return you will be involved in an important cross-University committee, gain an insight into the REF and equality a diversity (both highly topical issues in the sector), and be engaged in academic citizenship.

Nomination procedure:

The vacant roles on the BU REF Circumstances Board are:

  • 1 x early career researcher (ECR) representative

Anyone interested should submit an expression of interest stating your interest in equality and diversity, why you think equality and diversity is important for the REF and why your involvement would strengthen the BU REF Circumstances Board (max 300 words). Your nomination should state your name, job title and Faculty.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 29th January 2016. Nominations should be emailed to Julie Northam, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange (jnortham@bournemouth.ac.uk).

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from any BU staff member on an academic contract, however, you must be independent from REF preparations (for example, applicants cannot be UOA Leaders, impact champions or output champions).

ECRs in this context are defined as members of staff who started their careers as independent researchers on or after 1 August 2015. In line with the REF guidance, an individual is deemed to have started their career as an independent researcher from the point at which:

  1. They held a contract of employment which included a primary employment function of undertaking ‘research’ or ‘teaching and research’, and
  2. They undertook independent research, for example, leading or acting as principal investigator or equivalent on a research grant or significant piece of research work.

If you have any queries, please speak with Julie Northam in the first instance.

REF review to be led by Lord Stern of Brentford

Lord SternSummary from press release:

The HE green paper (Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice) and the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, both released in November 2015, mentioned that there would be a review UK research funding and the REF as a mechanism for allocating funding. Further information about this review was released on 16 December 2015 in a press release from Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister (Government launches review to improve university research funding). The aim of the review is to reduce the burden and cost to universities and government that has become associated with preparing for, and submitting to, the REF, therefore ensuring the government gets the most return for its investment.

The review will be chaired by the President of the British Academy and former World Bank Chief Economist Lord Nicholas Stern. He will be assisted by a high-level steering group of academic experts, including the Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, Professor Julia King, and the Past President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Professor Sir John Tooke.

Lord Stern commented: “Research assessment should not unwittingly introduce incentives for perverse behaviour, nor should it be overly burdensome. Excellence, properly defined, must remain the central basis for allocating support and funding for research. We will explore ways in which a simpler, lighter-touch, system for the REF might be developed.”

ref-logoThe review aims to:

1. Investigate different approaches to the evaluation of UK higher education research performance which can encourage and strengthen the emphasis on delivering excellent research and impact, while simplifying and reducing the administrative burden on the HE sector.

2. Draw on the evidence from the evaluation of REF2014 and consider other models of research performance assessment, which could provide robust means of informing future research funding allocations.
3. Provide options for future iterations of the REF focusing on a simpler, lighter-touch method of research assessment, that more effectively uses data and metrics while retaining the benefits of peer review. The review should ensure that a future process identifies and supports excellent research across the UK, including dynamic changes in research quality and emerging areas of research excellence, retains the frequency of approach of the current REF arrangements (at 5-6 year cycle) and secures the confidence of the HE/academic sector.

The full terms of reference for the review, including membership of the steering group, are available here: REF review terms of reference.

The outcome is due to be delivered in summer 2016.

 

Comments from the sector:

russell group logoUnsurprisingly many of the criticisms of the review have focused on the membership of the nine-member steering committee which includes seven academics and vice-chancellors from UK universities, all but one from members of the Russell Group. There are also no representatives from Wales, Northern Ireland or the funding councils and only one university in Scotland. Lord Stern defended the committee membership, saying he had looked for panel members from a “range of subjects” and for “people who are outstanding”. “Outstanding people are necessary to recognise excellence,” he said. “They are of the highest intellectual quality” and had experience in “running things”. The panel was not meant to be “a parliament of universities”, he said, but added that “we want to hear from everybody” about the future of the REF.

There have also been murmurings that the REF already offers a good return on investment, with costs estimated to only be 2.4% of the total funds its results will inform. If this is the case then is it even posible or desirable to reduce costs further?

The THE labelled Lord Stern as a ‘REF sceptic’, quoting a joint letter he wrote with Sir Paul Nurse in which he asked: “Have criteria of quality become too narrow and formulaic in some subjects? Are researchers feeling pressured to adopt short-term horizons and a narrow focus, and chasing publication rather than following their own judgements on which are the most fruitful avenues for research and most likely to yield major outcomes?” He also questioned whether the impact element of the REF was “insufficiently deep and broad”. The letter added: “is the REF incentivisation of universities to hire stars in the closing months, like an imminent transfer deadline in the Premier League, really a way to build a long-term scholarly department?”.

The suggestion of a more metrics-based approach is concerning, especially taking into account the recommendations in the Metric Tide report (July 2015) that concluded that metrics are not yet sufficiently robust to replace peer review or to be relied upon any more than they were in REF 2014.

Lord Stern defended the review, saying there was no “foregone conclusion” about the results, despite the HE green paper and CSR presuming it would lead to changes to the REF system. Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group said that the Russell Group was supportive of the review but would be concerned if it resulted in any dilution of the REF’s rigour and international reputation.

 

Further reading:

THE – Lord Stern review: no ‘foregone conclusions’ about future of REF, 22 December 2015

THE – REF sceptic to lead review into research assessment, 16 December 2015

Russell Group – Stern review of research funding, 16 December 2015

Times – Prove research is useful or lose funds, universities are told, 16 December 2015

University Alliance – University Alliance responds to the announcement of Stern Review of university research funding, 16 December 2015

Nominations invited from academics to join the BU REF Circumstances Board

ref logoThe BU REF Circumstances Board has been established to oversee the individual staff circumstances process for the post-2014 REF exercise. This includes:

  • determining whether individual staff circumstances submitted by BU academics meet the REF eligibility requirements;
  • verifying the evidence provided;
  • calculating the reduction in outputs using the methodology set out in the REF guidance documentation and the ECU case studies;
  • contributing to BU’s culture of equality and diversity.

The Board is chaired by a HR Manager with support from the Equality and Diversity Adviser and a member of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office. These post-holders will be selected based on their prior knowledge and expertise in individual staff circumstances and equality and diversity issues. Membership will also include two academics and an early career researcher (ECR).

We are now seeking expressions of interest from academics who are interested in joining the Circs Board. Successful applicants will be required to attend meetings of the BU REF Circumstances Board (schedule tbc, but likely to be one or two meetings per year), ensure they are aware of the REF guidance and regulations, undertake equality and diversity training, and promote a positive culture of equality and diversity at BU. We therefore ask for your commitment, active contribution and, most importantly, confidentiality due to the sensitive work of the Board. In return you will be involved in an important cross-University committee, gain an insight into the REF and equality a diversity (both highly topical issues in the sector), and be engaged in academic citizenship.

Nomination procedure:

The vacant roles on the BU REF Circumstances Board are:

  • 2 x academic representatives
  • 1 x early career researcher (ECR) representative

Anyone interested should submit an expression of interest stating your interest in equality and diversity, why you think equality and diversity is important for the REF and why your involvement would strengthen the BU REF Circumstances Board (max 300 words). You must also state whether you are applying to be an academic member or an ECR. Your nomination should state your name, job title and Faculty.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 11th December 2015. Nominations should be emailed to Julie Northam, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange (jnortham@bournemouth.ac.uk).

Expressions of interest will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers who are responsible for agreeing on which applicants to invite to serve on the BU REF Circumstances Board.

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from any BU staff member on an academic contract, however, you must be independent from REF preparations (for example, applicants cannot be UOA Leaders, impact champions or output champions).

ECRs in this context are defined as members of staff who started their careers as independent researchers on or after 1 August 2015. In line with the REF guidance, an individual is deemed to have started their career as an independent researcher from the point at which:

  1. They held a contract of employment which included a primary employment function of undertaking ‘research’ or ‘teaching and research’, and
  2. They undertook independent research, for example, leading or acting as principal investigator or equivalent on a research grant or significant piece of research work.

 

If you have any queries, please speak with Julie Northam in the first instance.

CSR – highlights for research and KE

george osborneOn Wednesday the government outlined their plans for spending over the next five years in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and Autumn Statement. The main points in relation to research and KE are:

Research councils:

  • The Nurse Review recommendations will be implemented (see an overview of the recommendations here).
  • Subject to legislation, the government will introduce a new body – Research UK – which will work across the seven Research Councils.
  • Innovate UK with remain and will be integrated into Research UK.

 

Budget:

  • The BIS budget will be cut by 17% (£2.2bn).
  • The science budget will be protected in real terms.
  • This includes a new £1.5 billion Global Challenges fund to ensure UK science takes the lead in addressing the problems faced by developing countries whilst developing our ability to deliver cutting-edge research

 

Research Excellence Framework:

  • The government will take forward a review of the Research Excellence Framework in order to examine how to simplify and strengthen funding on the basis of excellence, and will set out further details shortly.

 

Funding, priorities and investments:

Health and social care:

  • £5bn more to be invested in Health Research, key priorities being the genomes project, anti-microbial resistance and tackling malaria.
  • £600m additional funding will be available for mental health.
  • £150m will be invested in launching a competition for a Dementia Institute with the remit of tackling the progression of the disease.
  • Women’s Health charities/sector will be invested in, as will military charities.

Science and technology:

  • £1bn will be invested in energy research, with a key priority being the reduction in costs of low carbon energy.
  • Defence budget will be increased from £34bn to £40bn – emphasis will be on new equipment, capabilities and fighting cybercrime.
  • Investment in a new Cyber Innovation Centre in Cheltenham to supporting cyber excellence across south west.

Arts, sports and culture:

  • Arts and culture budget will be protected and £1bn will be invested.
  • The Arts Council will be invested in.
  • Funding in UK Sport will be increased in run up to the Olympic Games in Rio.

Knowledge exchange / enterprise:

  • £12bn invested in local growth fund.
  • 26 Enterprise Zones to be created including 15 in towns and rural areas. Two new zones are planned for the south west region.
  • Innovate UK will remain but based on a grant system with £165m in loans will be on offer. It will be integrated into Research UK (overarching body of the Research Councils).
  • Funding to Catapult Centres will increase.

Nominations invited from academics to join the BU REF Circumstances Board

ref logoThe BU REF Circumstances Board has been established to oversee the individual staff circumstances process for the post-2014 REF exercise. This includes:

  • determining whether individual staff circumstances submitted by BU academics meet the REF eligibility requirements;
  • verifying the evidence provided;
  • calculating the reduction in outputs using the methodology set out in the REF guidance documentation and the ECU case studies;
  • contributing to BU’s culture of equality and diversity.

The Board is chaired by a HR Manager with support from the Equality and Diversity Adviser and a member of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office. These post-holders will be selected based on their prior knowledge and expertise in individual staff circumstances and equality and diversity issues. Membership will also include two academics and an early career researcher (ECR).

We are now seeking expressions of interest from academics who are interested in joining the Circs Board. Successful applicants will be required to attend meetings of the BU REF Circumstances Board (schedule tbc, but likely to be one or two meetings per year), ensure they are aware of the REF guidance and regulations, undertake equality and diversity training, and promote a positive culture of equality and diversity at BU. We therefore ask for your commitment, active contribution and, most importantly, confidentiality due to the sensitive work of the Board. In return you will be involved in an important cross-University committee, gain an insight into the REF and equality a diversity (both highly topical issues in the sector), and be engaged in academic citizenship.

Nomination procedure:

The vacant roles on the BU REF Circumstances Board are:

  • 2 x academic representatives
  • 1 x early career researcher (ECR) representative

Anyone interested should submit an expression of interest stating your interest in equality and diversity, why you think equality and diversity is important for the REF and why your involvement would strengthen the BU REF Circumstances Board (max 300 words). You must also state whether you are applying to be an academic member or an ECR. Your nomination should state your name, job title and Faculty.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 11th December 2015. Nominations should be emailed to Julie Northam, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange (jnortham@bournemouth.ac.uk).

Expressions of interest will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers who are responsible for agreeing on which applicants to invite to serve on the BU REF Circumstances Board.

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from any BU staff member on an academic contract, however, you must be independent from REF preparations (for example, applicants cannot be UOA Leaders, impact champions or output champions).

ECRs in this context are defined as members of staff who started their careers as independent researchers on or after 1 August 2015. In line with the REF guidance, an individual is deemed to have started their career as an independent researcher from the point at which:

  1. They held a contract of employment which included a primary employment function of undertaking ‘research’ or ‘teaching and research’, and
  2. They undertook independent research, for example, leading or acting as principal investigator or equivalent on a research grant or significant piece of research work.

 

If you have any queries, please speak with Julie Northam in the first instance.

EPSRC report on REF case studies

EPSRC logoThe EPSRC have issued a report ‘Investing in excellence, delivering impact for the UK‘, which analysed 1,226 case studies submitted to the REF, which covered a timespan of two decades.  This enabled the EPSRC to explore and understand how their investments have delivered benefits across many areas of the UK economy and society.

They found that over 85% of the impact case studies in engineering and physical sciences involved research and/or researchers who were funded by EPSRC, demonstrating the critical role of the council in supporting excellent research that delivers impact. The impact case studies cite over £1 billion of EPSRC funding coupled with a similar level of funding from other sources including government, EU and industry and provide strong evidence of the high levels of additional investment that EPSRC support can attract.

Please click on the link above to read the full report.

 

 

The HE Green Paper and research – what does it tell us?

green paperNot much. The primary focus is on teaching excellence and social mobility, however, it does reiterate and propose the following about research:

  • Government is committed to the Haldane Principle, and therefore peer review and decisions on funding made by researchers.

 

Dual support system:

  • Government is committed to the retention of the dual support system (allocation of research funding via block grants (currently via the REF) and competitive calls (currently via Research Councils)
  • It is proposed to abolish HEFCE. HEFCE’s current remit in terms of research includes policy development and management of the REF and the allocation of research block grant funding.
  • The Paper provides some options for replacing HEFCE and delivering the dual support system in future:
    • Via separate bodies (as per now, i.e. a replacement for HEFCE’s research function and the Research Councils)
    • Via one overarching body (i.e. one super research body that controls both parts of the dual support system)
  • Neither of these are perfect. With option 1, one could argue that this would cause significant disruption in the sector and achieve no benefits to the current arrangement. With option 2, having one super research body calls into question how the integrity, transparency and fairness of dual support could be maintained?

 

Research Councils:

  • Sir Paul Nurse led a review of the Research Councils in 2015 and this is due to report soon. The Green Paper states that this will be critical in informing the final decisions made about research funding in future.
  • The Triennial Review of the Research Councils 2014 noted a number of efficiencies that could be made to the work process of the councils and the Green Paper proposes that these are addressed.
  • Government wants to ensure that discipline specific leaders remain a key part of the landscape.

 

Research Excellence Framework (REF):

  • The next REF will be held by 2021.
  • The review process itself will be reviewed with the aim of retaining the strengths of the current system (such as peer review), build on the successes (such as impact), and challenge the cost and bureaucracy associated with running such an exercise.
  • There is likely to be a greater emphasis on metrics.
  • There is the suggestion of running two types of REF exercise – a full peer review exercise periodically (e.g. every 6-8 years) with a mini REF held between full exercises (every 3-4 years) for which the focus would very much be on metrics.

 

You can read the full document here: Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice

The Green paper is open for consultation with the sector until 15 January 2016.