Re: Future UK RAEs to be Metrics-Based

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2006 19:56:53 +0100

On Thu, 6 Apr 2006, "J.F.B.Rowland" wrote:

> Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2006 16:41:57 +0100
>> SH: "There is no sense in repeating, with a local, inexpert UK panel,
>> what has already been done by each individual journal by purpose-picked,
>> qualified experts."
> There is also no sense in gratuitous insults. The RAE panels are chosen
> from the most senior, experienced and expert academics in their respective
> fields in the UK. While one might agree that using such people for this
> purpose is unduly expensive and extravagant, they are well qualified to
> peer-review the work of others in their discipline.

I yield to no one in my sincere admiration for UK experience, expertise
and seniority, but please do the arithmetic:

    (data source: RAE 2001 )
    c. 70 units of assessment
    c. 10 panel members per unit
    c. 170 institutions
    c. 10 researchers submitted per unit/institution (guesstimate)
       4 papers per researcher

That means 70 panels of 10 UK experts each have to be the peer-reviewers
for 10 x 170 x 4 = 6800 papers, or about 680 papers per peer.

What do you think is the probability that the journals that originally
peer-reviewed and published those 6800 papers would have adjudged
those 10 UK peers to have been the right peer-reviewers for those 6800
papers? (Note that the journal can draw on all the qualified peers on
the planet, for each of its subspecialities: the RAE must draw on the
same 10 for all 6800 papers.)

And note also that the peer review *has already been done*, for these
are peer-reviewed, published papers; so it is not clear what the UK panel
peer-reviewers can -- or should, or do -- do with their respective quotas
of 680 already-peer-reviewed papers each.

I think there is no insult whatsoever in commending the RAE for abandoning
at last this gratuitous waste in time, money and expertise in favour of
the metrics that generate almost exactly the same outcome at a fraction
of the cost.

Stevan Harnad
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Received on Thu Apr 06 2006 - 20:04:29 BST

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