Evaluating ‘impact’ in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF): liminality, looseness and new modalities of scholarly distinction

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Little is known about the process of evaluating the economic and societal impact of research undertaken in university settings. In this paper, we explore the accounts of senior academics and user-assessors, populating disciplinary sub-panels spanning the humanities and social sciences, convened to judge and ‘score’ the impact claims of researchers from UK universities as a new component of research evaluation within the specific context of the UK’s performance-based research funding system (PBRFS), the Research Excellence Framework (REF). We perceive from their accounts the emergence of a new and liminal space in the production of scholarly ‘distinction’ that is unlike archetypal modalities of academic excellence. Analogously, we identify an emotional and intellectual vulnerability in the review process and the loosening of the structures reviewers traditionally call upon in making value-determinations that simultaneously facilitate their role as impact evaluators and create new modalities in scholarly distinction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1554
Number of pages1566
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2018

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