Impact: a modest revolt

I have discussed the bad effect of the government’s concentration on “impact” of research before; in fact I do keep coming back to it, and you are probably bored, so I won’t rehearse the arguments again.

But this is important. A petition last year, asking for the government to re-think the use of “impact” in the REF, got tens of thousands of signatures; the only effect was that they reduced the proportion of the assessment for impact from 25% to 20%.

Now Philip Moriarty and Don Braben propose a modest revolt. When reviewing research council submissions, answer the question about impact with “I am not competent to assess the future potential socio-economic impact of this proposal”. Of course they can find stooges who claim to be able to assess it, but they will be put to extra trouble, and might actually be made to realise that we do feel strongly about this. Indeed, I do not believe that there is anyone who is competent to assess it.

A letter about this will appear in the Times Higher Education, hopefully next week. In the meantime, you might be interested in the website Campaign for the Public University.

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About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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4 Responses to Impact: a modest revolt

  1. Yiftach says:

    Great idea! These are exactly the things we can and should do.

  2. Christian says:

    Here are two comments:

    1) Suggestion: Assuming that a large majority of the community feel bad about the “impact” the community could suggest to the REF panel members to rate all submissions uniformly (for example with second highest grade for socio-economic impact), and a disclaimer they do not feel really competent in answering this question.

    2) If socio.-economic impact has a high (and in future increasing) weight, it would actually trigger a high proportion of research, say, for example, on the existing voting procedure and its variations, statistical analysis thereof, implementation issues of computer software, etc etc. Surely this is not core mathematical research and should be done by other subject disciplines.
    In short, a high socio-economic impact weight will damage the international standing of UK mathematics.

  3. Excellent! Plus it has the benefit of being absolutely honest and truthful.

  4. There is now a blog here entitled “LMS, REF and Impact”, inviting comments on this issue. I will put the link on the sidebar of this page.

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