Review of future UK research assessment to be chaired by international panel of experts

The review will consider how to support a positive research culture, minimise administration and promote excellence

New Zealand’s former chief scientist is to head an international panel of experts to review the UK’s 2021 research excellence framework (REF) and explore future models of assessment.

Sir Peter Gluckman, president-elect of the International Science Council and former chief science adviser to New Zealand’s prime minister, will advise the four UK higher education funding bodies on future research assessment.

Sir Peter’s review was commissioned by the funding bodies and governments in the UK and devolved nations “to understand what a healthy, thriving research system looks like and how an assessment model can best form its foundation”.

The paediatrician and biomedical scientist said the review would consider possible new models.

It is important that we think about what we value as carefully as how we evaluate it and listen closely to priorities and concerns from across the UK’s research community
– Sir Peter Gluckman

The review will consider how to support a positive research culture, minimise administration and promote excellence. It will review the 2021 REF, including how it handled the impact of Covid-19, and conclude by 2022. Members of the panel chaired by Sir Peter are drawn from across the globe and represent a spectrum of disciplines and research backgrounds.

Sir Peter said: “I look forward to working with my international colleagues to advise the funding bodies as they explore possible assessment models for the future.

“This is an exciting opportunity to consider how national research assessment can form the foundation for a healthy, inclusive and dynamic research system.

“It is important that we think about what we value as carefully as how we evaluate it and listen closely to priorities and concerns from across the UK’s research community.”

Research minister Amanda Solloway announced a root and branch review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in October last year. Outlining her goals for the review, Solloway said the new system must create “more quality time” for research, build a culture that “recognises all contributions”, offer “clear accountability for public funding without…complex bureaucracy” and motivate researchers “to do diverse, creative and risk-taking work”.

Prof Adam Tickell, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex, is heading a separate, England-wide review tasked with identifying why bureaucracy has increased in R&D.

The Russell Group has set out proposals to improve the working environment and culture for all researchers.

The association of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities – home to half of all academics carrying out research at the country’s higher education institutions – says its key concern is the need for a more stable, long-term funding system for research.

The panel comprises:

  • Sir Peter Gluckman, president-elect, International Science Council New Zealand
  • Dr Lidia Borrell-Damián, secretary general, Science Europe
  • Dr Chonnettia Jones, vice-president for research, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
  • Professor Erika Kraemer-Mbula, professor of economics at the University of Johannesburg, and chairholder of the DST/NRF/Newton Fund Trilateral Chair of Transformative Innovation, the 4th Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development.
  • Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith’s professor of modern history at Trinity College Dublin and chair of the Irish Research Council
  • Dr David Phipps, assistant vice-president of research strategy and impact at York University, Canada, and director of Research Impact Canada
  • Dr Kirsty Salmon, vice-president of advanced bio and physical sciences for low carbon energy at BP
  • Professor Sue Thomas, chief executive officer of the Australian Research Council.

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