Though some UK universities are playing by the rules in preparing their submissions for REF 2014 and treating their academic staff with respect and decency, Lancaster seems not to be alone in employing procedures to select staff for its REF submission that satisfy neither HEFCE’s own Guidelines for the REF nor the established norms of academic peer review.
This morning I received an email from Warwick University UCU, informing me of a recent survey of Warwick staff who were being excluded from the REF, and requesting that I publicize their document on my blog. I am happy to do so.
Warwick survey shows REF rules being bypassed and selection guidelines ignored
Much good research excluded; Interdisciplinary research sidelined; Academics left in limbo
Warwick UCU has conducted a survey of all its members to ask if they had received a letter from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor informing them that they were to be excluded from the REF. Forty-four members replied, the largest response we have received to any of our surveys. (We also received responses from some members who had recently been moved to teaching-only contracts who are no longer eligible.)
We wanted to know the grounds on which they were excluded, the process by which the decision had been made and what the implications would be for them and for research within the university going forward. Above all we wanted to see if the guidelines and principles of the national Research Excellence Framework and Warwick’s own Code of Practice are in fact being upheld.
Main findings in brief:
• The majority of respondents are excluded on ‘quality’ grounds, meaning they have enough submissible research but the university judged it to be below some threshold (e.g. for some individuals/departments an ‘average’ of 3*, and for others 3.5*)
• Selection criteria are not transparent, are applied inconsistently and with little regard to inclusivity – in contravention of the stated REF principles.
• A small number of members have been granted a right of appeal on substantive, academic grounds (despite the university having said that it would only hear appeals within the context of Equality Legislation) and been reinstated.
• Research is often excluded on the subjective judgement of heads of department without having been independently appraised by experts external to the university, and in some cases, externals were asked to ‘confirm’ HoDs’ assessments, not to read and assess the work independently.
• Some research is excluded purely on ‘strategic grounds’.
• Interdisciplinary research is being excluded without proper appraisal: it seems to be routinely described as ‘below the standard required in terms of quality’.
• Some academics complain that the university would rather exclude them than ask for their research outputs to be cross-referred to a different REF panel.
• Many members are unclear as to the consequences of exclusion for their careers. They are unsure if they are in good standing or not.
THE FULL WARWICK UCU DOCUMENT CAN BE FOUND HERE.