By Jennifer Hilder, PhD Intern
If you don’t work at a university, you might not think that a Thursday before Christmas was anything to worry about. But for academics this may be the most important day of the decade: the REF 2014 results are in, and they decide the funding that subject areas receive for the years to come.
The big unknown factor of this year’s REF was Impact, which was worth 20% of the total. Impact comes from engaging an audience beyond academia, but the engagement must be based on high-quality research. This means that all Impact is Knowledge Exchange but not all Knowledge Exchange is Impact.
So how did Glasgow do? It depends slightly on which table you look at, but out of 154 universities, the University of Glasgow was ranked 12th for research power by Research Fortnight (Guardian) and 24th on mean GPA (THE). As Anton Muscatelli, Principal of University of Glasgow, says in an interview, this is a “pleasing” result. What’s interesting is that when the universities are ranked by Impact, Glasgow is 24th again (THE). This suggests that our Impact is roughly in line with our research excellence overall.
But we can break it down even further and look at the results for the College of Arts subjects. The REF Units of Assessment do not match up exactly to our schools and subject areas in every case, but it is often close enough to be useful.
To take one example, the English Language and Literature category received one of the biggest submissions in terms of staff numbers from the College of Arts, and overall 43% of their submissions were ranked 4* (‘world-leading’) including their Output, Impact and Environment scores. What’s really fantastic is that while 29.5% of Outputs (= raw research) were 4*, 53.5% of their Impact submissions were. So a high 4* Impact score has been a big boost to the results overall.
Over the next few days, weeks and months there will be more to say about Impact, but its importance can’t be denied and it isn’t going to go away. Research excellence includes Knowledge Exchange and this is something all researchers will have to think about.