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


Memorandum submitted by the Chemical Industries Association

  Our response is based on the work of the Chemistry Review Panel.

Have any of their staff been reluctant, or refused, to serve?

  No, not as far as the CIA is aware. All the members regarded it as both a privilege and a huge responsibility. It was hard work, but no-one resented doing it.

Did they feel that sufficient weight was given to their views?

  The views of all panel members were fully respected. For the most part, there were few areas/researchers, over which a general consensus was not quite quickly reached [ie, is this academic of national or international standard?], but where there were opposing views [as is inevitable] the discussion was held in the most constructive manner, and in all cases a final verdict was reached and agreed upon without any acrimony. This was true also for the more ethereal aspects of the assessment, such as the department's strategy / focus / future plans / management etc.

In more general terms, do they feel that industrial collaboration was given the recognition it deserved?

  Overall, the Panel work was very hard and time-consuming, but conducted throughout in the most genial and respectful manner. The Panel was very effectively chaired by Jim Feast. The protocols [eg rules of assessment, exclusion from discussion of those with conflicting interests] were very strictly applied, and the support we received from the RAE team [from John Rogers, manager of the RAE, to Lisa Brooks, the Panel Secretary] was excellent.

  A couple of issues that are also worth mentioning are given below:

    —  The research outputs [research papers to be assessed] were not easily accessible for Panel members without a university library, and the system put in place to allow access over the web was slow and cumbersome.

    —  The discussions held over the assessment period, and the detailed notes the Panel made during the process, contained a great deal of valuable information and analysis which, if properly disseminated, would be a great help to each department, to understand why it did well or badly, and how to build on things for the future.

  The CIA believe it is a shame that, because of legal issues which we fully understand, none of this information will get to the people it should. The Chemistry Panel were constrained to give a very brief outline of what was agreed at the meetings, in a rather standard and amortised form. All detailed notes were destroyed, primarily to prevent the Panel and its members from possible litigation if someone objected about a comment/assessment.

  Overall, the RAE experience was very positive. However, the CIA believes that it is too retrospective. We believe that HEFCE should be encouraging departments to bid for funds based on a rigorous five-year "business" plan. The backward-looking nature of the RAE is silly, and the "transfer market" in top academics it promotes is equally inane.

Dr Amit Khandelwal

Head of Research and Innovation

February 2002

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