Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  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 grants—for 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.

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