Education And Debate

The research assessment exercise and medical research

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7235.636 (Published 04 March 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:636
  1. Stephen Tomlinson (stephen.tomlinson@man.ac.uk), professor.
  1. Clinical Research Division II, Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Manchester M13 9WL

    Editorial by Goldbeck-Wood Education and debate pp 630, 636

    In 1999-2000 the Higher Education Funding Council for England will distribute over £855m for research, virtually all of it according to the quality and amount of research done. Quality is assessed through a periodic research assessment exercise. Research is funded selectively so that universities and colleges with high quality research departments get a larger share of the money. The first research assessment exercise to cover the entire higher education sector was undertaken in 1992, the last one was in 1996, and the next will take place in 2001. The research community now has an opportunity to influence the way in which quality of research is assessed after the exercise in 2001 because, from now until autumn 2000, the funding councils for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are undertaking a fundamental review of research policy and funding.1

    Each higher education institution is allocated a block grant that includes quality related research funding. This quality related funding provides money for the infrastructure of research—helping to cover the costs of the salaries of permanent academic staff, premises, and central computing—while research charities and funding councils provide for direct project costs and contribute to indirect project costs. The quality related research funding is thus the core funding for the university research base and is allocated by the funding councils according to the quality rating of each unit of assessment.

    Summary points

    The research assessment exercise has resulted in substantial reductions in funding to some medical schools and has led to a loss of status for teaching compared with research

    The exercise has undervalued clinical and health services research and disadvantaged highly specialised and multidisciplinary research

    It also promotes a short term approach to research and is expensive to operate

    Proposed changes for the exercise …

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