In an interview with Research Fortnight, Graeme Rosenberg, HEFCE’s REF manager, said the council is busy recruiting the top people among some 700 nominees from a recent exercise. The assessors for impact, or “research users” as they are called, will be appointed across all of the subpanels and will cover a “very wide range of people from industry, public sector, charities, cultural institutions”.
They are being selected according to the findings of a survey on the types of impact from research that institutions are planning to submit to the REF. The survey results are being used to inform hiring decisions and to decide the balance between industry and the public sector participants.
There are already some 70 research users on the REF subpanels, including civil servants and industry representatives. With the additional 150, there will be around six research users on each of the 36 subpanels in the REF.
In addition to the appointment of research users, around 150 more academics are to be recruited as panel members to assess the large volume of research outputs expected in the REF. Some of these will be jointly appointed to sit on two panels where there is an overlapping area.
The REF team is also busy providing support for the submission system and answering institutions’ queries. Most questions are about particular cases of eligibility, staff or outputs, only around 10 per cent are about impact, says Rosenberg.
Another question that crops up from time to time, he says, is whether the panels will be using journal impact factors in their assessments, despite HEFCE’s insistence to the contrary. ”I think what happens is that institutions sometimes internally use proxies [journal impact factors] for their internal decisions and then people think that’s what the REF panels will be using,” he says. However, he adds this is not something HEFCE is too concerned about given that institutions that are taking this “wrong approach” may not do as well in the REF as they expect.