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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.11 Agriculture, Food Science and Technology, and Veterinary Science, UoA 15, 16, 17

UoA Descriptor

3.11.1 The Joint Panel will use the following descriptions of the Units of Assessment (UoAs) for which it is responsible. 3.11.2 Agriculture (UoA 15) covers the management of rural resources and environment for the purpose of food and non-food production from crops and animals, and for services. It includes those natural and social sciences which are studied in this context. (Horticulture, soil science, forestry, aquaculture, marketing and trade, and rural development are included).

3.11.3 Food Science and Technology (UoA 16) includes the sciences relating to the processing, quality, and safety of foods including consumer and nutritional aspects.

3.11.4 Veterinary Science (UoA 17) includes the group of pre-clinical, para clinical, and clinical related subjects which comprise and contribute to the scientific and professional basis of veterinary science.

UoA Boundaries

3.11.5 The Joint Panel will ensure submissions which straddle the boundaries between UoAs 15, 16 and 17 are assessed appropriately using the range of expertise available to the Panel. The boundaries of the Joint Panel's UoAs also overlap with those of other panels, for example: Biological Sciences (UoA 14), Environmental Sciences (UoA 21) and Economics (UoA 38). The general rules for cross referrals of submissions in Section 4 of RAE 2/99, Guidance on Submissions, will apply.

Sub-Panels and Specialist Advisers

3.11.6 The Joint Panel will split into three sub-panels; one each for Agriculture, Food Science and Technology, and Veterinary Science. The sub-panels will make an initial assessment of submissions in their UoAs, which will then be considered by the Joint Panel collectively, who will be responsible for the final ratings.

3.11.7 Additional specialist advisers will be appointed where necessary to help the Joint Panel and its sub-panels assess submissions.

Interdisciplinary and Pedagogic Research

3.11.8 The Joint Panel will adopt the general rules on assessing interdisciplinary research in Section 4 of RAE 2/99, Guidance on Submissions. Pedagogic research will be referred to the Education Panel or specialist advisers for expert advice.

Joint Submissions

3.11.9 The general guidelines in Section 4 of RAE 2/99 on the assessment of joint submissions from more than one HEI will be followed. In addition, the Joint Panel will pay attention to the overall coherence of the joint submission.

Treatment of Evidence

3.11.10 In awarding final ratings, the Joint Panel will consider all the evidence of the quality of research presented in each submission. The primary measure will be the quality of research outputs presented in form RA2. This will be moderated by the following measures:

  1. Postgraduate research activity, as indicated by the number of research degrees awarded, and the number of research students and studentships (RA3a and RA3b);
  2. External research funding (RA4);
  3. Evidence of the vitality in the research environment, as demonstrated through organisational structure, credible plans, prospects for continuing development, effective use of funding for research, and collaborations with the user community (RA5&6).

Research Output (RA2)

3.11.11 It is anticipated that submissions will include the following range of research outputs: journal articles, books, chapters in books, research conference contributions, review articles, commercial and government-sponsored reports, patents and software.

3.11.12 In terms of output, editorship of major research works will be considered as research activity, whereas membership of editorial boards per se will not normally be so (especially where it is defined as bringing to press the work done by others, as distinct from textual scholarship). The responsibility for identifying the research element in editorial activity rests with the submitting HEI.

3.11.13 In order to assess the quality of research output, the Joint Panel, through its sub panels, will collectively examine in detail at least 50% of the items of research output cited in submissions and a minimum of one item of research output cited for each researcher. All research output not examined in detail will be reviewed by the Joint Panel and its sub-panels on the basis of its citation in RA2. In selecting which outputs are to be examined in detail, account will be taken of the subject material, type of works, and medium of publication of the outputs cited for each researcher.

3.11.14 Research outputs will be assessed according to their scientific and/or technical excellence, their originality and the substantive contribution they make to ideas, methods, policy and practice. The Joint Panel's assessment will be based primarily on its subjective but professionally informed judgement of the quality of the work. The quality of the research is the prime factor, whether the research is basic/strategic, applied, or of direct relevance to the needs of industry, commerce, government or other end users. In assessing outputs, account will be taken of the refereeing and editing standards of the medium of publication. However, outputs in non-refereed publications will not be assumed to be of lesser quality; the Joint Panel will assess cited outputs on their individual merits.

3.11.15 A submission of less than four research outputs per active researcher may be indicative of lack of depth within the subject area or of low productivity but there will be no automatic penalty for failure to cite four items of research output. The Joint Panel will consider each case on its merits, giving due allowance for individual cases, such as young active researchers who may need more time to produce four outputs. Account will also be taken of the prospects for staff development given the described research environment and the department's stated staffing policy. It is the HEI's responsibility to provide information in RA6 on any individual staff circumstances which may have affected outputs and to explain the research environment and staffing policy in RA5.

3.11.16 Citing the same outputs for more than one researcher in a submission could be evidence of genuine collaboration and the best means of publishing the results of research. On the other hand, multiple citation of this kind in a submission may be indicative of a lack of depth or productivity. The Joint Panel will consider each case of multiple citation on its merits and, where appropriate, take it into account in the overall assessment of a submission. Institutions may comment on high levels of co-citation in RA6.

Research Students and Research Studentships (RA3)

3.11.17 The number of research degrees awarded, the number of research students and the number of research studentships will be regarded as indicators of quality and will be used to moderate the rating derived from the assessment of research outputs. These variables will be expressed as averages per active researcher. All sources of funding for studentships will be judged as being equal.

External Research Income (RA4)

3.11.18 Data on external research income will be expressed as an average per active researcher. All external sources of research income will be treated equally. The information will be regarded as an indicator of quality and will be used to moderate the rating derived from the assessment of research outputs. The Joint Panel will take account of the fact that income is more important in some fields of research than others.

Textual Commentary (RA5 and RA6)

3.11.19 The following sub-headings are not intended to be prescriptive, but rather provide guidance on issues which HEIs may wish to address, where appropriate, in the textual parts of their submissions (RA 5 and RA6).

RA5: Research Strategy, Plans, Policies, Structure and Environment

Research Strategy

3.11.20 Past, present and future research strategy. The Joint Panel's attention may be drawn to ongoing research work that is not producing immediate visible outcomes.

3.11.21 Evaluation of the research plans put forward in the 1996 RAE, explaining any significant divergence which has occurred.

Research Structure and Environment

3.11.22 The organisation of individual researchers, for example into research groups. The role of research assistants. The prime activities and main achievements of the researchers/research groups.

3.11.23 Other UoAs to which related work has been submitted and any difficulties of fit between departmental structure and the UoA framework.

3.11.24 The mechanisms and practices for promoting research and sustaining and developing an active and vital research culture.

3.11.25 The nature and quality of the research infrastructure, including facilities for research students. Any capital development plans.

3.11.26 The use of funding to support research (including for example, significant external research grants, or the use of revenue from clinical services).

3.11.27 Any arrangements which are in place for supporting interdisciplinary or collaborative research.

3.11.28 Information on relationships or collaborations with industry and commerce or other research users. Where appropriate, examples of responsiveness to Government policy initiatives and objectives (e.g. Technology Foresight) and examples of any research exploitation or knowledge transfer activities.

Staffing Policy

3.11.29 The arrangements for the development and support of the research work of staff.

3.11.30 Any arrangements which are in place for developing the research of younger and /or new researchers and for integrating them into a wider, supportive research culture.

3.11.31 The role and contribution of category A* staff who have joined the department.

3.11.32 How the departure of staff in categories A*, B and D has affected the strength, coherence and research culture of the department at the census date.

Self Assessment

3.11.33 A self-assessment of performance in relation to the issues outlined in the textual commentary. Credit will be given for objective, self-critical and constructive self-assessments.

RA6: Indicators of Esteem, Individual Staff Circumstances, and Additional Observations

Evidence of Esteem

3.11.34 Indicators of peer esteem which relate to the individual researchers submitted. These might include: prestigious awards and positions, or membership of scientific bodies, editorial boards,oradvisory committees to industry and government.

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.11.35 Any individual staff circumstances which have significantly affected their contribution to the submission (recruitment and development of young staff, periods of sick leave, career breaks, maternity leave, engagement on long term projects, extensive clinical duties). The time lost might be quantified, where possible.

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

3.11.36 Institutions may also wish to discuss the relative contribution made to research by staff who have not been returned as research active.

Additional Information

3.11.37 Any other evidence which the HEI wishes the Joint Panel to take into account in assessing the research activity.

Working Methods

3.11.38 Individual research outputs will be rated as 'international', 'national', or 'sub-national' based on the following definitions:

  1. International. Highly innovative work, which provides significant new information or ideas resulting in the modification of existing theories, or understanding, or mechanisms, enabling significant new applications or policies. Likely to have been published in outlets with recognised rigorous refereeing and/or editorial standards.
  2. National. Generates new information or ideas. Provides some understanding of mechanisms or includes some innovative developments of methods, techniques, deductions, policies or practical applications.
  3. Sub-national. Does not fulfil criteria for 'national' or 'international'.

3.11.39 The numerical indicators for postgraduate research activity and external research income will be plotted against the provisional ratings awarded for research outputs. Outliers on such plots will be examined individually and taken into account during the refinement of the rating of submissions derived from the grading of research outputs.

3.11.40 A qualitative assessment will be made of the evidence presented in RA5 and RA6 and this will be used alongside the numerical indicators to refine the rating of submissions derived from the grading of research outputs.

3.11.41 In these ways, the Joint Panel will make a summative assessment of the quality of research, taking account of all the evidence presented in each submission.

3.11.42 The sub-panels will carry out an initial assessment of the submissions based on the approach described above. Each sub-panel member will be assigned a number of individual submissions for assessment in order to come to a provisional view about the quality of research activity. This will include responsibility for examining in detail and reviewing the outputs cited in these submissions within his area of competence. Submissions will also be reviewed by a number of other panel members in areas of their special expertise and, where appropriate, by additional specialist advisers. Members will then present their provisional assessments at sub-panel meetings for consideration and the sub-panels will arrive at an interim rating using the RAE scale.

3.11.43 The members of the Joint Panel will consider the interim ratings of the sub-panels and will review the evidence in submissions to come to a conclusion on the rating. Where significant differences arise between the two assessments, submissions will be re-examined. The Joint Panel will then reach a final assessment of each submission and will award a final rating using the RAE scale. The final rating awarded will be the collective responsibility of the Joint Panel. The Joint Panel will reach decisions by consensus, but exceptionally will resort to a vote to resolve disputes.

3.11.44 The Joint Panel will identify a group of non-UK based experts, who will be asked to consider submissions it has provisionally rated 5* or 5. The Joint Panel will consider the comments of these non-UK based experts and award a final rating. The final decision on ratings will rest with the Joint Panel.

Last updated 17 April 2000

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