Stern’s report on the UK REF was published this month, and made some pretty grim reading. Two paragraphs in particular caught my eye:
Scope for ‘gaming’
31. the practice of making a highly selective submission to the REF that does not represent the overall research activity in that area in the institution. Other negative consequences cited were the exclusion of good research staff who do not fit the HEI selection strategy, potentially demotivating some staff, and reducing the completeness of the picture of UK research strength.
Staff selection and outputs
62. Selecting who should be included in the REF is a significant factor in an institution’s costs. At least as importantly, it can generate problems with career choices, progression and morale. In REF2014 the number of outputs, hence individuals included, scaled with the number of impact case studies submitted. Therefore, exclusion and the associated stigma are being driven by factors that are not wholly related to the quality of an individual’s research contributions and potential. Both the literature review and responses to the Call for Evidence suggest that there are long- term consequences to individuals who are not returned in the REF. With these factors in mind we recommend that in future exercises all research active staff are returned in the REF, and allocated to a Unit of Assessment.
I’m sorry to say my own experience has been similar: after being returned to the LIM panel of RAE2008 in a 25% 4* Research Centre, I aimed, thereafter, for a return to the CCMLIM Panel. By 2012 it looked as though I would be ’12-pointer’ for that Panel, but I was then told, in late 2012, that I would be returned either to the Business & Management Panel (with four ABS ranked 3* and 4* papers), or no panel at all. Unsurprisingly, with so little time left to turn things around, I was not returned at all.