The “Real” Impact Factor: Reflections on the Impact of the Research Excellence Framework

Broadbent Jane/ Financial ReportingRiviste / Fascicolo: 1-2016


This paper is an argument for the importance of academics undertaking some (but not only) research that relates to the practical issues faced by practitioners and policy makers and that is geared to achieving impact. It offers a normative argument informed by my experience as a practitioner and an academic and by my experiences in the assessment of impact as part of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014. The paper introduces the nature of the REF and how it was implemented. It also addresses the implications of the performance measurement of impact of REF for Higher Educational Institutions and the individual academics that work within them. In that respect it recognises that performance measures give extrinsic encouragement to particular behaviours. The paper argues that academics should also be intrinsically driven to research that has impact. In order to achieve impact, the paper suggests that we should not see a gap between academics and practitioners, but should instead see practice and academic endeavour as different but complementary elements of the same profession. We should seek to develop better discourses between academics and practitioners and should not attribute greater importance to the views of either party. Instead we should have an engagement that is open to the generation of disagreement as well as agreement but that nevertheless does not see disagreement as the basis for closing down communication.

Keywords: Research impact, engagement, evidence for policymakers and practitioners, Research Excellence Framework


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