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Research governance and the future(s) of research assessment

Alis Oancea ()
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Alis Oancea: University of Oxford

Palgrave Communications, 2019, vol. 5, issue 1, 1-12

Abstract: Abstract This paper explores recent public debates around research assessment and its future as part of a dynamic landscape of governance discourses and practices, and organisational, professional and disciplinary cultures. Drawing reflectively on data from RAE 2001, RAE 2008 and REF 2014 (reported elsewhere), the paper highlights how recent debates around research assessment echo longer-term changes in research governance. The following changes, and several critiques of their implications, are discussed: shifts in the principles for governing research and the rise of multi-purpose assessment; the spread of performance-based funding and external accountability for research; the use of metrics and indicators in research assessment; the boundary work taking place in defining and classifying units or fields for assessment; the emphasis on research impact as a component of research value; organisational recalibration across the sector; and the specialisation of blended professional practice. These changes are underpinned by persistent tensions around accountability; evaluation; measurement; demarcation; legitimation; agency; and identity in research. Overall, such trends and the discursive shifts that made them possible have challenged established principles of funding and governance and have pushed assessment technologies into a pivot position in the political dynamics of renegotiating the relationships between universities and the state. Jointly, the directions of travel identified in this paper describe a widespread and persistent regime of research governance and policy that has become embedded in institutional and individual practices.

Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0213-6

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