Research excellence is about more than the number of bodies in a building

13/03/2013 – 10:46 am
Tony McCall

As we enter the REF (Research Excellence Framework) submission year our minds will become ever more focused on research, with words like “impact” and “value” dominating discussions. However, underlying it all will be concerns about the outcomes, and the implications this will have on research funding.

The 1994 Group has highlighted the fact that there have been a number of recent funding decisions made on the basis of the amount of research already taking place within an institution or department – the idea that a high concentration of academics, or critical mass, is necessary for excellent research.

So what is so critical about mass? Critical mass seems to be based on the assumption that there is a minimum amount of research required to make a department effective and a certain concentration that results in the best research. Supporters also argue that critical mass inevitably produces economies of scale.

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author: Alex Bols
source: The Guardian – Higher Education Network (12/3/13)

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