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Petford knocks impact assessments

A “whole useless industry” could be created if impact assessment continues to be given such a predominant place in the proposed Research Excellence Framework, quipped Nick Petford during this mornings plenary session here at the 2010 Association of Research Managers and Administrators conference in Manchester.

Petford, the outgoing pro-vice chancellor for research at Bournemouth, came to ARMA to present the views of the University Alliance on research funding. He suggested that universities could end up spending valuable QR funding on impact studies and even predicted that we will start to see professors of impact studies cropping up.

The Alliance wants the REF to be divided into 15 per cent impact, 70 per cent outputs and 15 per cent environment. Impact considerations are certainly essential when undertaking publicly funded research, Petford suggested. But he questioned its use in the REF.

Also speaking at the plenary was Nancy Rothwell, acting president and vice chancellor of the University of Manchester. She shared her thoughts on the REF and described a detailed exercise that has been going on at her institution to log research impact. She also warned that as public spending is cut, research managers might find themselves on increasingly shaky ground. Less money means less research being conducted, she said, which could lead to a reduction in the number of research managers needed.