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The ‘Impact Agenda’ and the commercialisation of University research

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The ‘Impact Agenda’ and the commercialisation of University research

Back in December 2009 UCU led a very impressive opposition to the HEFCE plans to introduce the measurement of the impact of research within the new Research Excellence Framework (the successor to the RAE). They collected 17,570 signatures, including 6 Nobel prize-winners. The plans were condemned not only by the arts, humanities and social sciences, but also very strongly within the natural sciences who felt that valuing ‘applied’ over ‘basic’ research would prove damaging.

Recently HEFCE reported the results of its Pilot Studies on Impact and announced that these had been conducted satisfactorily and were endorsed as legitimate by the wider academic community. It is testament to the general climate of fear over spending cuts, alongside reductions to the research budget did not seem to be as great as were anticipated, that the response has been so muted. Many academics think the outcome could have been worse and that demonstrating impact may have been one of the things that prevented the cuts in the research budget going deeper (though, the ‘flat cash’ settlement represents a cut of 9% in real terms, accentuated by the fact that most other countries are increasing their research spend over the same period and already commit significantly more)

This article by Philip Moriarty, Professor of Physics at the University of Nottingham, reminds us just what is at stake.

BBC R4 will broadcast a documentary on the increasing business focus/corporatisation of university research on Dec. 15 (at 9 pm).

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