Memorandum submitted by The Institute
of Mathematics and its Applications
1. The Institute believes firmly in the
value of high quality research in Mathematics for a number of
(a) its contribution to UK competitiveness,
(b) its positive effect on teaching, and
by this means, to the quality of graduates entering the employment
market or seeking research training.
2. The results of the latest Research Assessment
Exercise were published in December and in Mathematics the number
of higher grades awarded was appreciably higher than in 1996.
For example, some 35 departments achieved higher gradings in Applied
Mathematics in the 2001 Exercise. There is no doubt that the existence
of the RAE has served to drive up the quality and quantity of
research in Mathematics and its applications in the UK.
3. Investment by individual departments
in achieving improved gradings has often been significant and
was made on the understanding that improved grades would lead
to increased funding. The Institute believes that the credibility
of UK research policy-makers would be adversely affected if this
anticipation was not met. If research in Mathematics in the UK
is to maintain or improve its world-class standing then adequate
funding must be available for the highest-rated departments to
maintain their position, whilst at the same time, allowing continuing
improvement by the others.
4. The Institute notes with grave concern
suggestions that funding for departments graded 3 should be reduced.
Often such departments, for historic reasons, started from a much
lower base line for research funding, and yet have made major
improvements in their output. In view of the grading process,
it is likely that within these departments there are some staff
producing internationally competitive research, and on whom further
improvement might be based. The Institute firmly believes that
achievement should be recognised and funded appropriately wherever
it is detected. In the Institute's view failure to do this could
have long-term detrimental effects on regional economies as well
as damaging confidence in the policy-makers.
5. As with teaching quality assessment,
preparation and planning for the RAE is demanding on staff time,
sometimes to the extent that what is being assessed is adversely
affected by the assessment process. The Institute is concerned
also that the demands on staff time have a detrimental effect
on its own work. University staff are finding it increasingly
difficult to contribute to the leadership of their profession
through the Institute's activities.
6. The research assessment process has been
shown to be valuable, but the Institute, in common with others
believes that full assessments should take place every 10-12 years.
In proposing a longer cycle, the Institute feels that departments
would benefit from a greater degree of stability in their planning.
This is of particular importance in the development of replacement
staffing policy given the age profile of staff in many mathematics
7. If the proposal for a longer interval
between full assessments is accepted, then the Institute believes
that developing departments should be able to improve their ratings
between full assessments. The introduction of a procedure for
this could serve as a valuable incentive, serving to further increase
the strength of UK research in mathematics without over-frequent