The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) yesterday issued the final criteria and working methods for its Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment exercise.
The research press is still full of various academic voices continuing to rant against the whole issue of HEFCE assessing ‘research impact’ for the first time. Seems to be a waste of energy if I am honest. It’s here to stay so you may as well just get on with it.
I know my public involvement colleagues closer to the whole process, have argued strongly for the definition of public engagement around health research to be broadened to cover ‘involvement’ as well. Looks as though they have won out [see Table 1A] in at least getting it included. Although they could have gone further.
Nonetheless, this tweaking could actually be very important in preventing universities from pulling the wool over our eyes. The question will be not so much: how many leaflets did they say they distributed, or how many people ‘visited’ their exhibition? More, did either of these things have an impact on behaviour or change attitudes or, more imporantly, how did they involve people in their design and planning.
Who knows? By the next REF, we might have a whole section on public involvement…… and 50% of the rating for universities will be dependent on evidence of their ‘impact.’