Re: Future UK RAEs to be Metrics-Based

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2006 16:02:27 +0100

    Prior AmSci Threads on this topic::

    "Future UK RAEs to be Metrics-Based"

    "Question for publishers - Research Assessment Exercise 2008"

CrossRef and publishers have come to a "gentleman's agreement" with
RAE/HEFCE to "license" the papers that are submitted to RAE for assessment
"free of charge":

    2008 UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)
    CrossRef Newsletter (September 2006)


    "CrossRef has been working with the Higher Education Funding Council
    for England (HEFCE - and the Publishers
    Licensing Society (PLS - on the 2008 RAE...

    "Review panel members increasingly want access to materials -
    particularly journal articles - in electronic form. They require
    access to the authoritative final version of an article, and not
    to a pre-print held for example in an institutional repository.
    HEFCE, CrossRef, PLS, and EduServ are therefore working together to
    facilitate access...

    "The licensed materials will be accessible only to RAE panel members
    and to HEFCE staff administering the RAE, the works will be accessible
    only for the purposes of conducting the RAE, and all text will be
    deleted from the data collection system at the end of the exercise..."

    "The licence between HEFCE and PLS as negotiated is free of charge
    despite the fact that it has value for HEFCE in significantly saving
    administrative costs. This reflects the fact that photocopied works
    underpinned previous RAEs at no cost under a 'gentleman's agreement'
    between HEFCE and publishers, and also the value to the publishing
    industry in demonstrating that we can work together to provide
    innovative licensing and access solutions...

At the heart of this are not one, not two, not three, but *four* pieces
of patent nonsense so absurd as to take one's breath away. Most of the
nonsense is on RAE/HEFCE's end; one cannot blame the publishers for play
along (especially as the gentleman's agreement holds some hope of
forestalling OA a bit longer, or at least the role the RAE might have
played in hastening OA's arrival):

    (1) The first piece of nonsense is the RAE's pedantic and
    dysfunctional insistence on laying their hands directly on the
    "originals," the publisher's version of each article per author,
    rather than sensibly settling for the author's peer-reviewed final
    drafts (postprints).

    (2) The second is the equally foolish notion that the RAE somehow
    needs special permission to do this, or, worse, might even have needed
    to *pay* for the right, but for this "gentleman's agreement"! (Of
    course the publishers are more than happy to play along with this
    self-imposed farce on RAE's part; but if no one had ever absurdly
    suggested in the first place that when an author sends a copy of his
    own paper to his own funder for evaluation, *he needs his publisher's
    permission*, none of this nonsense would ever even have come up!)

    (3) The idea of restricting submissions to only *four* papers
    was originally floated by RAE in part out of the hope that
    this limitation would act as a counterweight against salami-sliced
    publication. It didn't. And it's time to drop this absurd, arbitrary
    limit on what work can be submitted.

    (4) Of course the other reason the number was kept down to four was
    the even more dysfunctional feature of the RAE that is only now,
    at long last, being deservedly jettisoned (the submissions and panel
    reviews themselves!); yet one hand does not seem to be aware of what
    the other is doing: For once the unnecessary and time/money-wasting
    "peer-*re*-reviewing" that the RAE panels had been trying to
    do is at last abandoned in favour of metrics, there will be no
    need for either a 4-item cap or any compulsive attempt to get the
    "originals" to the panel. The authors' self-archived postprints
    in their own institutional OA IRs will suffice (and the only thing
    the RAE panels -- if there still *are* any RAE panels -- need do,
    if suspicious about any particular item, is a database search (say,
    in Web of Knowledge or Scopus or PubMed) to make sure that the item
    in question did indeed appear in the journal indicated, under the
    name of the author in question).

What will moot all of this is of course the OA self-archiving mandates
by RCUK and the UK universities themselves, which will fill the UK
universities' IRs, which will in their turn -- with the help of the IRRA -- mediate the submission of both the postprints
and the metrics to the RAE. Then this ludicrous side-show about the
"licensing" of the all-important "originals" to the RAE, for "peer
re-review" via the mediation of CrossRef and the publishers will at last
be laid to rest, once and for all.

RAE 2008 will be its last hurrah...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Sep 18 2006 - 16:19:43 BST

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