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Next REF: A boon for academic careers?

Image: Amtec Photos [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Rules set to come in for the next REF could help researcher development

Arguably, the most significant changes to the Research Excellence Framework rules arising from Nicholas Stern’s 2016 review were the end of the ‘four outputs per researcher’ rule and the end of the option to choose who is returned. Instead, everyone with “significant responsibility for research” must be returned, with between one and five publications per researcher. The total number of publications to be returned is now 2.5 x n, where n equals the full-time equivalent number of researchers in the relevant unit of assessment.

In this REF cycle, the rules have been literally made up as we go along. I suspect most institutions have treated the business of selecting which publications to return as an optimisation problem—everyone’s best publication and then the best of the rest to maximise the total number of likely four-star and three-star papers. But the process of how many publications to expect from each researcher has been reactive and pragmatic. Next time, could our publication strategies be more proactive and planned?

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