The visible hand of research performance assessment
- 703 Downloads
Far from allowing a governance of universities by the invisible hand of market forces, research performance assessments do not just measure differences in research quality, but yield themselves visible symptoms in terms of a stratification and standardization of disciplines. The article illustrates this with a case study of UK history departments and their assessment by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and the Research Excellence Framework (REF), drawing on data from the three most recent assessments (RAE 2001, 2008, REF 2014). Symptoms of stratification are documented by the distribution of memberships in assessment panels, of research active staff, and of external research grants. Symptoms of a standardization are documented by the publications submitted to the assessments. The main finding is that the RAEs/REF and the selective allocation of funds they inform consecrate and reproduce a disciplinary center that, in contrast to the periphery, is well-endowed with grants and research staff, decides in panels over the quality standards of the field, and publishes a high number of articles in high-impact journals. This selectivity is oriented toward previous distributions of resources and a standardized notion of “excellence” rather than research performance.
KeywordsPerformance assessment Research Assessment Exercise Research Excellence Framework Stratification Standardization Marketization
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
- Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
- Bourdieu, P. (1988). Homo Academicus. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Brown, R., & Carasso, H. (2013). Everything for Sale? The marketisation of UK higher education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Cole, J. R., & Cole, S. (1973). Social Stratification in Science. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
- Deem, R., Hillyard, S., & Reed, M. (2008). Knowledge, higher education, and the new managerialism: The changing management of UK universities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Gengnagel, V., & Hamann, J. (2014). The making and persisting of modern german humanities. Balancing acts between autonomy and social relevance. In R. Bod, J. Maat, & T. Weststeijn (Eds.), The making of the humanities III. The modern humanities (pp. 641–654). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
- Hamann, J. (2014). Die Bildung der Geisteswissenschaften. Zur Genese einer sozialen Konstruktion zwischen Diskurs und Feld. Konstanz: UVK.Google Scholar
- Harley, S., & Lee, F. S. (1997). Research selectivity, managerialism, and the academic labor process: The future of nonmainstream economics in UK universities. Human Relations, 50(11), 1427–1460.Google Scholar
- Leišytė, L., & Westerheijden, D. (2014). Research Evaluation and Its Implications for Academic Research in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Discussion Papers des Zentrums für HochschulBildung, Technische Universität Dortmund, 2014(1), 3–32.Google Scholar
- Lucas, L. (2006). The Research Game in Academic Life. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
- Martin, B. R., & Whitley, R. D. (2010). The UK Research Assessment Exercise. A case of regulatory capture? In R. D. Whitley, J. Gläser, & L. Engwall (Eds.), Reconfiguring knowledge production. Changing authority relationships in the sciences and their consequences for intellectual innovation (pp. 51–80). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Merton, R. K. (1973). The sociology of science. Theoretical and empirical investigations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Power, M. (1997). The Audit Society. Rituals of verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- RAE. (1992). Universities Funding Council. Research Assessment Exercise 1992: The Outcome. Circular 26/92 Table 62, History. http://www.rae.ac.uk/1992/c26_92t62.html. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (1996). 1996 Research Assessment Exercise. Unit of assessment: 59 History. http://www.rae.ac.uk/1996/1_96/t59.html. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2001a). 2001 Research Assessment Exercise. Unit of Assessment: 59 History. http://www.rae.ac.uk/2001/results/byuoa/uoa59.htm. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2001b). Panel list history. http://www.rae.ac.uk/2001/PMembers/Panel59.htm. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2001c). Section III: Panels’ criteria and working methods. http://www.rae.ac.uk/2001/pubs/5_99/ByUoA/Crit59.htm. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2001d). Submissions, UoA history. http://www.rae.ac.uk/2001/submissions/Inst.asp?UoA=59. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2001e). What is the RAE 2001? http://www.rae.ac.uk/2001/AboutUs/. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2008a). RAE 2008 panels. http://www.rae.ac.uk/aboutus/panels.asp. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2008b). RAE 2008 quality profiles UOA 62 history. http://www.rae.ac.uk/results/qualityProfile.aspx?id=62&type=uoa. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- RAE. (2008c). RAE 2008 submissions, UOA 62 history. http://www.rae.ac.uk/submissions/submissions.aspx?id=62&type=uoa. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- REF. (2011). Assessment framework and guidance on submissions. http://www.ref.ac.uk/media/ref/content/pub/assessmentframeworkandguidanceonsubmissions/GOS%20including%20addendum.pdf. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- REF. (2012). Panel criteria and working methods, Part 2D: Main panel D criteria. http://www.ref.ac.uk/media/ref/content/pub/panelcriteriaandworkingmethods/01_12_2D.pdf. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- REF. (2014a). Panel membership, Main panel D and sub-panels 27-36. http://www.ref.ac.uk/media/ref/content/expanel/member/Main%20Panel%20D%20membership%20%28Sept%202014%29.pdf. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- REF. (2014b). REF 2014 results & submissions, UOA 30—History. http://results.ref.ac.uk/Results/ByUoa/30. Accessed 08 Aug 2015.
- Royal Society. (2009). Journals under threat: a joint response from history of science, technology and medicine authors. Qualität in der Wissenschaft, 34(4), 62–63.Google Scholar
- Sayer, D. (2014). Rank Hypocrisies. The Insult of the REF. New York et al.: Sage.Google Scholar
- Slaughter, S., & Leslie, L. L. (1999). Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
- Talib, A. A. (2001). The Continuing behavioural modification of academics since the 1992 Research Assessment Exercise. Higher Education Review, 33(3), 30–46.Google Scholar
- Teixeira, P., Jongbloed, B. W., Dill, D., & Amaral, A. (Eds.). (2004). Markets in higher education. Rhetoric or reality? Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- The Past Speaks. (2011). Rankings of history journals. http://pastspeaks.com/2011/06/15/erih-rankings-of-history-journals/. Accessed 08. Aug 2015.
- Times Higher Education. (2008). Historians decry journal rankings. (2008, 04. Jan 2008).Google Scholar
- Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society, 2 vol. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Whitley, R. D., Gläser, J., & Engwall, L. (Eds.). (2010). Reconfiguring knowledge production. Changing authority relationships in the sciences and their consequences for intellectual innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar