Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002
60. I think scientists around this table, me
included, probably would take issue with that. Can I touch again
on Professor Susan Bassnett's comment; she goes on to say: "What
the high scores represent is Academics' Revenge: faced with quantifying
the unquantifiable, they have gone round handing out top scores
all over the place. If we have another RAE, every department in
the country will get a 5*." Does that ring true to you? I
(Mr Bekhradnia) No, absolutely not. I am really disappointed
and sorry to hear that comment from so distinguished a person.
We have evidence, and it is referred to, and it is irrefutable,
I think, that, in the eyes of the rest of the world, UK science
has improved very substantially between 1996 and 2001. It is not
an artefact, it is a reality. Other scientists around the world
are citing our research more than they did, comparative to each
other; it is a comparative improvement I am talking about here,
and it is one which is broadly commensurate with the degree of
improvement that has been identified in the RAE. We created international
corresponding panels, to whom the panels were obliged to refer
their proposed ratings, and in all but a handful of those cases
they confirmed the ratings that were being proposed. So I do think
it is wrong and it is potentially damaging, and I do hope that
this Committee will not be persuaded that it is simply an artefact;
this improvement is real, and I think that we should celebrate
it, not try to denigrate it.
61. I just wanted to finish, if I may, briefly,
Chairman, with a question on your calculation of the costs of
RAE 1996, which you calculated to be between £27 million
and £37 million. I was just wondering how you came to that
(Mr Rushforth) That was based on some detailed work
of predominantly opportunity costs, done at a number of institutions,
to try to identify, by interview and by sometimes sheet analysis,
the time people had spent in preparing, submitting, and all the
rest of it, and then modelled up to cover the rest of the sector.
So it is, as best we can, an estimate of the time, particularly,
that institution staff have spent.
(Mr Bekhradnia) To which we added the direct costs
that we knew about, of course, because we incurred them.
62. Yes; sure. But the majority of it wasyou
referred to asan opportunity cost?
(Mr Rushforth) Opportunity costs, yes.
63. Can I say, some of us will be visiting our
local universities, to do something equivalent to this, so we
get it right from the coalface, as it were, and we will hear it
directly. But can I say to you, for all the effort that has been
put in, the money that has been shelled out, and so on, and the
problems that people have felt, in meeting all these increasing
standards, what do you feel has been the reaction, in terms of
putting in resources to follow all that effort; good, bad? On
a scale of 1 to 10, where would you put it, in terms of the reaction;
has it been worth all the effort, as far as the people there,
who have moved their grades up, do they see more resources? Because
when we meet people and talk to them it does not feel that way.
And what have you done, and what are you going to do, about that?
(Mr Bekhradnia) We discussed the representations that
have taken place between us and the Government about funding.
There has been a substantial injection of funds into research,
over the last few years, from the Government, but it has tended
to be all on the capital side, on the infrastructure side; and
welcome, as I said, and very necessary. I think what is wanted
now, what is needed now, is to recognise the recurrent implications
of all this, we need something equivalent on the recurrent side.
I think we will have to see what follows, in the Comprehensive
Spending Review, from that.
64. Thank you very much, Mr Bekhradnia, and
Mr Rogers and Mr Rushforth. Thank you very much indeed. I am sorry
we have taken a bit longer than anticipated, but you can tell
there are strong passions round here.
(Mr Bekhradnia) I am sure there are.
Chairman: Thank you very much for giving up
your time and giving us the evidence. Thank you.