Opposition to changing the REF shows why change is needed

Universities shouldn’t have to ask what a good research culture looks like, says Gemma Derrick.

The UK university sector is exhausted. We are suffering a hangover from Covid-19 and industrial action. There is a rising murmur that researchers and their institutions are bruised and now is not the time for change.

On top of this come the rule changes proposed for the 2028 Research Excellence Framework—in particular, the plan to make assessment of people, culture and environment worth 25 per cent of the total. This would replace the environment statement that was worth 15 per cent in previous exercises.

Faced with such a high-stakes change, worries and quibbles are understandable. Some universities have pointed to uncertainties about how research culture can be defined and assessed, and expressed doubts that it can be. Some are lobbying to return to the definitions and weightings used in previous REFs.

But the reception for REF 2028 also shows precisely why the change is needed. Calls to maintain the status quo highlight universities’ inability to see past their desire to compete with one another and think instead about what is best for their own research communities.

Read the article on the Research Professional website.

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