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Researcher selection skews REF rankings, report warns

The league tables published following the Research Excellence Framework exercise in 2014 may be misleading as they are “based on calculations that do not permit the intended direct comparisons of research quality”, says a Royal Statistical Society report.

Institutions that sent submissions to the REF were allowed to select which researchers to include but the league tables published in the national press mostly failed to take the level of selectivity into account. Many universities “correctly anticipated” this outcome, the RSS report says, leading to “strategic exclusion of some eligible research staff”.

In the report, published on 11 May, the RSS suggests that published rankings should align more closely with quality-related funding outcomes per researcher, including funding outcomes for staff not selected for submission.

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