Memorandum submitted by the Science Council
Many of the Science Council member bodies will
have responded to the review from the perspective of their individual
disciplines. This response highlights some general points which
affect the science community overall. The Council welcomes the
opportunity to respond to the Inquiry into the Research Assessment
Research output from the universities
underpins the profession as a whole and it is vital for high quality
standards to be maintained.
The Council broadly accepts that
the results of the most recent Research Assessment Exercise do
represent a real improvement in research performance and the international
calibre of research scientists in the top-rated departments.
The next step is to create the conditions
and provide the funding under the dual-support system for research
to flourish, allowing top-rated departments to maintain their
standards and to encourage others to improve to reach equivalent
Now that a high proportion of 5 and
5* rated departments have been recognised, providing they have
adequate support to maintain their standards, there should be
less need for frequent comprehensive assessment exercises. Top-rated
departments should be able to demonstrate sustained excellence
with a simplified system requiring less documentation and administrative
expenditure than in the RAEs to date. Full assessments could be
done every 10 years with a smaller scale assessment in intervening
Further improvements in the quality
of UK research could be achieved by providing encouragement and
support for good research individuals or groups within lower-rated
departments. When departments work to raise their standards and
meet the criteria likely to earn them a higher rating, they should
be able to apply for the full assessment process at appropriate
Further consideration needs to be
given in future to assessment and reward for multidisciplinary
research, particularly that which covers the interfaces between
traditionally pure science and more applied disciplines.
Appropriate mechanisms should be
sought to give credit for high quality research collaboration
between departments within or between universities.
The Science Council is concerned
about the future supplies of sufficient high quality graduates
and postgraduates to industry, commerce and the public sector.
Consequently the Council is keen to see that universities offer
high standards of teaching in parallel with their research, and
have the means and motivation to instruct students, postgraduates
in particular, in the principles of research, innovation, effective
dissemination and exploitation of research results. Consideration
should be given to encompassing these elements in future RAEs.
17 January 2002