Measure the thing you’re interested in

Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

The REF (Research Excellence Framework) is a time-consuming exercise that UK universities have to go through every few years to assess and demonstrate the value of their research to the government; the way funding is allocated between universities is largely dependent on the results of the REF. The exercise is widely resented, in part because the processes of preparing and reviewing the submissions are so time-consuming.

Dorothy Bishop has noted that results of REF assessments correlate strongly with departmental H-indexes (and suggested that we could save on the cost of future REFs by just using that H-index instead of the time-consuming peer-review process).

But it’s also been shown that H-index is strongly correlated with the simple number of publications. A seductive but naive conclusion would be: “we could just count publications for the next REF!”

But of course if we simply allocated research funding across universities on the basis of…

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