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Looking back and moving on

Ian McNay puts the REF in the context of previous exercises, and looks at how policy on research assessment might develop.

The frantic, frenzied and in some cases futile work involved in submitting to the Research Excellence Framework is done. Before it starts again for 2020, we can begin to judge the REF, in the light of six previous assessments dating back nearly 30 years and over 20 years of research into their impact. We can start setting an agenda for making and implementing policy on future research assessments.

The aim of a research assessment has always been the same: to inform the allocation of research funds. This reflects the ‘value for money’ approach to public services of the 1980s, linked to Thatcherite suspicion of professional autonomy and the need for greater accountability.

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