I attended Impact in the context of the REF at King’s College London on Friday, which made for an interesting and informative conference. After a welcome address by Dr Alison Campbell, Dr David Sweeney gave the audience the lowdown on the REF, which by all accounts is continuing largely as planned. When probed about any changes relating to the change of government, he responded that nothing had changed as of yet.
After that, Graeme Rosenberg outlined how impact was planned to be assessed in the REF, but much seems to be dependent on the outcomes of the REF pilots, which are yet to be revealed. Dr Claire Donovan of the Australian National University followed with a highly informative presentation about the Australian experience of attempting to measure research impacts, but stressed that this project was never put into practice, interestingly – because of a change in the governing political party.
After a break we listened to interesting feedback from three of the universities involved in the REF pilots, namely Oxford, York and Glasgow. Different approaches and different experience, as one might expect from such different institutions.
Next followed an interesting session, talking from the viewpoint of two of the impact panel chairs. Noting that the experiences of the English and the Medical panels were very different, I’m sure that the pilots have given HEFCE plenty to think about. A question from a repository manager relating to statistics and their importance revealed a lack of awareness of the statistical capabilities of repositories amongst the panel members.
After lunch we broke into groups looking at Clinical Medicine, Earth Systems, English, Social Science and Physics, before rounding up with an update on the RCUK Research Outcomes Project. Overall this was a very well organised and worthwhile event, although it would have been nice (and possibly more practically useful) had it been timed to coincide with the results of the impact pilots. Still, in these politically and economically turbulent times, anything could happen at any time.