UK Research Funding to Reward Economic Benefits
The REF will come into force in 2012 to replace the current system of evaluation, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The scheme will be allocated 1.76 billion pounds UK (approximately U.S. 2.7 billion U.S. dollars) is spent annually on university research in terms of three main elements – the results, impact, and the environment – that are considered indicative of excellence in research.
The first factor to consider is the REF outputs, to be reviewed by a panel of experts who take into account such factors as job appointments. The second is the impact of the work, research showing the benefits of the economy, public policy, society, culture and quality of life, attract more funding. The impact will be assessed by a case study approach. The third factor is the environment, taking into account the ability of the research department to support continuing research and outstanding dissemination of results. This will be on factors such as departmental staff, postgraduate training, research strategies, and public relations.
The new system aims to stop the investigation, the government has been criticized in the past, such as studies of David Beckham “and” surfing studies “and to stop the practice of hiring” stars “from academia to driving results. The system is also to put into research universities to be economic, social and cultural rights, as these projects will receive increased funding.
The research director of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), David Sweeney, said the new system is designed to ensure that public funds are used effectively. The scheme would apply to research in the humanities and arts, as well as in science, and aims to develop internationally recognized and competitive research that contributes to the prosperity of the nation and welfare.
Academics have warned that the new system will mean the end of speculative research, for which the economic benefits or other unknown until research has been done. The University and College Union (UCU) is also concerned about the emphasis in appointments will distort the academic activity and could threaten academic freedom. The UCU general secretary Sally Hunt also noted that some of the greatest scientific advances have emerged from the speculative research. Research never be measured in purely economic terms, Hunt said.
The HEFCE is currently running a pilot exercise to test the proposed method for evaluating the impact of research. It is also to continue consultations on the REF until mid-December, and invites responses from universities and organizations interested in or affected by the use of research results.