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Preparing for Research Assessment

Originally published 19 July 2004
Stuart Palmer
Stuart Palmer

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Palmer explains what steps the University is taking to prepare for the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

Planning for RAE 2008 is a top priority for the University and we are working with academic departments to provide the necessary support including additional resources for developments that the University and departments see as crucial to RAE 2008.

Last Autumn Professor John Jones, the Pro Vice-Chancellor with the portfolio for research, Dr David Law, the Academic Registrar, and I met with the Chair and the research co-ordinator of all our departments. Together we discussed each department's readiness for RAE 2008 and we plan to repeat the exercise in the Autumn term and to meet on an annual basis between now and the final submission deadline.

It must be said that the rules for RAE 2008 are still far from clear, the funding council has given a broad-brush picture but has yet to publish much of the detail. What is already apparent is that the categorisation will not be based on the crude limited number of steps with large disparities in funding levels that were used in 2001. It is more likely to be a smooth continuous scale called the Quality Profile.

Therefore the traditional strategy of recruiting one or two key academics to lift a department from one category to another, and significantly lifting the QR (quality-related) income of the whole department, may not be relevant next time.

The tactics for RAE 2008 may well be different, and we are planning to do some modelling of various scenarios over the next few months in order to advise departments on the way forward.

Occupant of a New Post - Bill Brewer

Professor Bill BrewerProfessor Bill Brewer, formerly CUF Lecturer in Philosophy in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, will join Warwick's Department of Philosophy at the beginning of August.

Bill is an acknowledged expert in Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind and Action and Philosophical Logic. Philosophy are currently recruiting for a lecturer to work alongside Bill in developing and extending research in this area and to assist in developing this activity into a research centre.

However, the University does see the need to bring in new staff, and fresh blood, and has embarked on a programme of recruitment. Additional staff will be a key driver to support and enhance RAE submissions.

In the Summer of 2003 the University's Estimates and Grants Committee (E&G), which allocates departmental budgets to support academic activities and considers bids for the establishment of new academic posts in University departments, made a successful bid to the University Finance Committee for 16 new academic posts. These new posts are targeted at developing RAE portfolios and research profiles.

Departments were invited to submit bids for these posts and the submissions were considered by E&G in the light of long-term university strategy and on their individual merits. Eight of these posts have now been allocated, the rest will be decided this summer.

In addition, in the present financial round, the University has allocated an additional six posts for the 2004/5 academic year and a further six professorial posts for the 2005/6 and 2006/7 academic years. Each new professor will also be able to recruit a lecturer in his or her research area. The purpose of this initiative is to attract top-calibre international experts to six high priority areas across the University.

Occupant of a New Post – Paul Harrison

Professor Paul HarrisonProfessor Paul Harrison, formerly of Queen Mary University of London, joined the Department of Physics at the start of this year. His field is Elementary Particle Physics and his research interests include neutrino mass, neutrino oscillations,
matter/anti-matter Asymmetry and particle accelerator physics.

Paul, with funding from the Physics Department and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, has recently initiated a new Elementary Particle Physics group within the Department. The group is presently involved in four experiments, one of which is studying the delicate asymmetry between matter and anti-matter. The others are in various aspects of neutrino physics. Paul has been joined in this venture by Drs. Yorck Ramachers and Gary Barker and has recently recruited two Warwick graduates to study for PhDs in particle physics.

The procedure for allocating the six professorships and accompanying lectureships will be discussed in more detail at E&G, the Research Opportunities Group and by the University Strategy Committee.

It is important to realise that separate arrangements have been made for the financially devolved departments of Warwick Medical School (WMS), Warwick Business School (WBS) and Warwick HRI. Over the next five years WMS will be creating 39 new academic posts and WBS will be creating 57. In total therefore the University is providing funding for 130 academic posts to enhance the research activities of the University and strengthen our position for RAE 2008.

It should be stressed that in allocating these posts the University will be guided by its long-term strategy and by departmental plans. We should recall that the University does not have an overwhelming record of resourcing its strengths, nearly all the departments that achieved a 5* rating in 1996 did not achieve one in 2001 (those that did get a 5* rating in 2001 had moved up from a 5 rating). This is not to say that all the posts will be awarded to 5* departments, the allocation will take into account the merits of individual bids, linkages with long-term University-wide strategy and potential for developing interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.

The aim is to get the best possible institutional results in RAE 2008 to both maximise the QR funding stream and to promote and enhance Warwick's research excellence.

For more information on the details of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise see the following insite articles:

Research Assessment Exercise 2008 Announced - 11 February 2004

RAE 2008 - Assessment Methodology and Panel Make-Up - 23 July 2003