SOME WIDER THOUGHTS
1. The Committee will no doubt receive evidence
suggesting possible long-term changes to the RAE and Funding Council
support for research that could be examined further including:
Whether the time between assessments
could be increased and whether all subjects need to be examined
at the same time.
Whether the significant discontinuities
in funding if a department goes up or down one rating point resulting
from the fact that there are five funded rating categories but
two-digit accuracy in the volume measure, could be improved. A
possible way forward may be to have three "5" quality
ratings with the highest one having a higher threshold for the
proportion of internationally excellent work.
Whether, in view of the larger number
of 5 and 5* departments, the current system of criteria referencing
should be replaced by norm referencing, by grading to a curve,
as used to guard against grade inflation in many US universities.
Whether, the Funding Councils should
see what could be done to make standards more uniform across UoAs.
While there is no operational need to have strict comparability
between UoAs, since the RAE is designed to allocate funding within
a UoA, there is some evidence suggesting differences in the way
that standards have been applied (which can cause problems if
they are used for purposes for which they were not intended).
Whether the overall burdens of the
RAE could be reduced by making use of the success of staff in
gaining research grantsfor example by providing the "dual
support" element of the funding by means of fixed percentage
addition to individual grant applications, with the money going
to the university as a whole to use as it thinks fit, as is the
case with the existing Funding Council block grant (and with such
funding arrangements in the US).
These changes could have significant implications
for the future development of the UK university research system,
and many of them were extensively explored in the reviews conducted
by the Funding Councils a year or so ago. Nevertheless, some of
them could usefully be revisited in the light of the outcome of
the 2001 RAE. The Society is intending independently to examine
the RAE outcome in relevant disciplines, but the results of this
study will not be available until after the Committee concludes
its own review.