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Selling ‘impact’: peer-reviewer projections of what is needed and what counts in REF impact case studies. A retrospective analysis

Watermeyer, Richard and Hedgecoe, Adam 2016. Selling ‘impact’: peer-reviewer projections of what is needed and what counts in REF impact case studies. A retrospective analysis. Journal of Education Policy 31 (5) , pp. 651-665. 10.1080/02680939.2016.1170885

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Abstract

The intensification of an audit culture in higher education is made no more apparent than with the growing prevalence of performance-based research funding systems like the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the introduction of new measures of assessment like ‘impact’ or more specifically, the economic and societal impacts of research. Detractors of this regulatory intervention, however, question the legitimacy and credibility of such a system for, and focus within, the evaluation of research performance. Within this study, we specifically sought to understand the process of evaluating the impact of research by gaining unique access as observers of a simulated impact evaluation exercise populated by aproximately n = 90 senior academic peer reviewers and user assessors, undertaken within one UK research-intensive university prior to and in preparation of its submission to REF2014. Over an intensive two-day period, we observed how peer reviewers and user assessors grouped into four overarching disciplinary panels went about deliberating and scoring impact, presented in the form of narrative-based case studies. Among other findings, our observations revealed that in their efforts to evaluate impact, peer reviewers were indirectly promoting a kind of impact mercantilism, where case studies that best sold impact were those rewarded with the highest evaluative scores.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
ISSN: 0268-0939
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 March 2020
Date of Acceptance: 22 March 2016
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2020 04:10
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/88252

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