The REF – by Charlotte
I don't normally blog about what I'm up to in my job at the Research Exchange but my recent project has been an interesting one for me as it's really straddled the personal/professional borders. This is something that can often happen when you're an ECR working on services for ECRs, and I feel very lucky that my "other" job draws upon (and enhances) my own experience of this "funny in-between phase". My recent line of work has been especially pertinent as it's been all about Impact and the REF 2014. I've been looking into how the REF impacts upon ECRs (in the broadest sense, as well as soon-to-be-finishing PhDs), how much ECRs understand about the REF, and particularly looking at this in terms of "impact" which is a new area of assessment. The wider remit is then to feed this back into our Research Exchange work with early career researchers.
One thing I have learned so far is that ECRs and PhDs are really quite unsure about exactly what the REF is and how it relates to them; Impact is also one of those concepts that is now becoming more widely understood, but generally in a more vague sense rather than as something practiceable. One thing that's become certain from my research, though, is that early career researchers need to understand the requirements and what's going to be expected of them; whilst 2014 might sound like a long time away, the implications have for some time been impacting upon the academic job market.
So the first stage of my work has resulted in 3 articles which condense the key information from the REF guidelines into concise, readable guides (something that I can't say about the guidelines!), complete with links onto further information and directions of where to find the key info in the REF guidelines. My initial tweet-out about the new guides proved my suspicion that this information is much-needed among the wider research community, so I'm posting the links again here. The guides are:
- REF 2014 and publication measures: an introduction to the REF, with focus on how "research outputs" will be assessed
- REF 2014 and Impact: looking at the REF-specific guidelines on "impact"
- ECRs and the REF: what does the REF mean for you as an ECR, and some key tips and advice.
In terms of me as a researcher, this has obviously been very useful - I not only know the REF guidelines inside out, but have done a lot of wider reading gathering perspectives and ideas about how to interpret and understand the implications of the exercise. As I've been applying for jobs, with limited success, for a little while now this is valuable reading and has helped me to work out how to improve my applications (although the flipside is I'm feeling rather jaded about the current state of HE). I've also been learning much more about the meanings and ways in which impact can be achieved, and following my own first forays into wider engagement I'm developing new ideas about the possibilities for future projects (something which feels much more positive and motivating).
This has been valuable experience especially when realising how most ECRs aren't so clued-up, so the next step is working out how to continue disseminating this info to our ECR community.
Are you feeling REF ready? What kind of support are other unis providing in advance of the REF, or what would you like to see available?