Re: The RAE and our Parliamentary Briefing Note (fwd)

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2007 12:03:17 +0100

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2007 11:29:53 +0100 (BST)
From: Stevan Harnad <harnad -->
TO: CPHC list
Subject: Re: The RAE and our Parliamentary Briefing Note

On Tue, 10 Jul 2007, Harold Thimbleby wrote [on CPHC]:

> HEFCE has asked us to provide hardcopies and CDs of RAE outputs.
> In the 21st century it is astounding (it astounds me anyway) that, as
> well as being required to provide physical outputs, we have to submit
> CDs (but not CD-rw nor DVD-rw because HEFCE can't cope with them) of
> PDFs.

This anachronistic piece of somnambulism on the part of the
"decision-makers" at HEFCE was drawn to their attention some time ago
(to no detectable avail), and it runs far deeper than demanding CDs
of PDFs:

    "Re: Question for publishers - Research Assessment Exercise 2008"
    (Feb 2006)

My only glimpse of how things are done at high levels comes from my
preoccupation with the one circumscribed issue (for which I was recently
voted into silence by a vocal handful on CPHC, so I make bold to respond
on this occasion with some trepidation!), OA, but maybe this is just
a random sample of the ubiquitous dyseconomies and dysfunctionalities of
scale that prevail everywhere, if we look closely enough at large-scale

Stevan Harnad
University of Southampton

On Tue, 10 Jul 2007, Harold Thimbleby wrote:

> [excerpt]
> - A moderately-capable IT undergraduate might have spent six minutes
> to add a field to HEFCE's RAE database to upload PDFs. Let's say this
> could be done at a cost of n pounds. (Note that n would have been
> negligible if HEFCE had anticipated the problem, but never mind.)
> - Instead a lawyer (let's suppose) spent a week drawing up
> requirements for CDs. Their fee would be a few thousand pounds. Let's
> say there are about 100,000 CDs required for the operation taken
> across every university in the UK, and it averages 2 person-days per
> CD (it'll take a lot longer for some people to even to learn what a
> PDF is, let alone get one generated...), and if staff costs are at
> the same rate as the student's, which was 10n pounds per hour, it's
> not hard to imagine a hidden cost to the UK economy of at least 3n
> million pounds. Then if *anybody* on the poor RAE panels are going to
> sort out and spend any time looking at these piles of CDs and
> locating the right PDFs to read, we may as well double the
> person-hours estimate.
> (And in our despair, people in UoA23 are going to create the CDs
> *and* refer to PDFs on servers. So we'll do both: ironically doing
> more work because we are IT literate!!)
> --
> Prof. Harold Thimbleby
Received on Thu Jul 12 2007 - 13:39:21 BST

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