Research Assessment Exercise

Research Assessment Exercise

The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) is an exercise undertaken approximately every 5 years on behalf of the four UK higher education funding councils (HEFCE, SHEFC, HEFCW, DELNI) to evaluate the quality of research undertaken by British higher education institutions. RAE submissions from each subject area, (or "unit of assessment") are given a rank by a subject specialist peer review panel. The rankings are used to inform the allocation of quality weighted research funding (QR) each higher education institution receives from their national funding council. Previous RAEs took place in 1986, 1989, 1992, 1996 and 2001. The next is scheduled to be published in December 2008. []

The Guardian has an [,11229,-4319756,00.html Institution Ranking Table] based on RAE results.


In 1992, 1996 and 2001, the following descriptions were used for each of the ratings.

These ratings have been applied to "units of assessment", such as French or Chemistry, which often broadly equate to university departments. Various unofficial league tables have been created of university research capability by aggregating the results from units of assessment.Fact|date=September 2007 Compiling league tables of universities based on the RAE is problematic, as volume and quality are both significant factors.

The 2008 RAE will use a four-point quality scale, and will return a profile, rather than a single aggregate quality score, for each unit. The quality levels—based on assessment of research outputs, research environment and indicators of esteem—are defined as:

Each unit of assessment will be given a "quality profile" - a five-column histogram - indicating the proportion of the research that meets each of four quality levels or is unclassified.

Assessment process

The assessment process for the RAE focuses on quality of research outputs (which usually means papers published in academic journals and conference proceedings), research environment, and indicators of esteem. Each subject panel determines precise rules within general guidance. For RAE 2008, institutions are invited to submit four research outputs, published between January 2001 and December 2007, for each full-time member of staff selected for inclusion. [ [ RAE 2008 "Definitions"] ]

In response to criticism of earlier assessments, and developments in employment law, the 2008 RAE does more to take into account part-time workers or those new to a sufficient level of seniority to be included in the process.


The RAE has not been without its critics, since 1996 the AUT, now incorporated within the UCU, has maintained a policy of opposition to the Research Assessment Exercise. [ [ "RAE 2008" University and College Union] ] In its view,

The official "Review of Research Assessment," the 2003 "Roberts Report" commissioned by the UK funding bodies, [ [ "Review of research assessment"] - report by Sir Gareth Roberts to the UK funding bodies, May 2003] recommended changes to research assessment, partly in response to such criticisms.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee considered the Roberts report, and took a more optimistic view, [ [ Science and Technology Committee, Eleventh Report, 15 September 2004] ] asserting that, "the RAE had had positive effects: it had stimulated universities into managing their research and had ensured that funds were targeted at areas of research excellence"," it concluded that "there had been a marked improvement in universities' research performance". Nevertheless, it argued that "the RAE in its present form had had its day", and proposed a reformed RAE, largely based on Roberts' recommendations.

Planned changes to RAE system

It was announced [,,2001455,00.html] in the 2006 Budget that after the 2008 exercise a system of metrics would be developed in order to inform future allocations of QR funding. Following initial consultation with the higher education sector, it is thought that the Higher Education Funding Councils will introduce a metrics based system of assessment for Science, Technology Engineering and Medicine subjects. A process of peer review is likely to remain for mathematics, statistics, arts, humanities and social studies subjects.


External links

* [,11229,-4319756,00.html 2001 RAE Institution Ranking (Guardian)]
* [ Current official RAE website for 2008 exercise]
* [ Archived RAE website for 2001 exercise]

* [ Chanson, H. (2007). "Research Quality, Publications and Impact in Civil Engineering into the 21st Century. Publish or Perish, Commercial versus Open Access, Internet versus Libraries ?" Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, NRC, Vol. 34, No. 8, pp. 946-951 (DOI:10.1169/L07-027) (ISSN 0315-1468).]
* [ Chanson, H. (2008). "Some Experience with Digitial Publishing, Open Access Repository, Research Impact and Quality." Proc.Open Access Collection workshop, Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories, Brisbane, 14 Feb., 12 pages.]

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