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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.12 Chemistry, UoA 18

UoA Descriptor

3.12.1 The Chemistry unit of assessment comprises the areas of Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Theoretical/Computational Chemistry, Solid State Chemistry, Organometallic Chemistry, Biological/Medicinal Chemistry, Condensed Matter and Materials Chemistry, Polymers, Applied Chemistry, Pedagogy and specialist areas which lie within or between these bounds.

UoA Boundaries

3.12.2 The Panel will consult with other relevant panels in the case of submissions which span the boundary between two or more units of assessment where this is considered likely to enhance the assessment process.


3.12.3 The Panel does not expect to convene sub-panels to assist in the assessment of any particular area of work. Specialist advice will be sought where necessary, for example to address work at the interface between two or more discipline areas, and in other areas which are judged to be outside the expertise of the members. Specific areas where the Panel requires specialist advice will be identified once all the submissions have been examined. Advice from specialist advisers will be considered by the Panel before the final assessment of quality is made.

Interdisciplinary Research

3.12.4 The Panel recognises the diverse and eclectic nature of the discipline and regards many aspects of research in Chemistry as naturally interdisciplinary. The Panel therefore welcomes interdisciplinary submissions. In its assessment of interdisciplinary research the Panel will apply the standard quality criteria. Members of the Panel recognise that the outcome of interdisciplinary research may constitute more than the sum of the parts.

3.12.5 Advice will be sought from specialist advisers or other relevant panels in the event that the requisite expertise is not available on the Panel. Responsibility for the final decision on the rating will rest with the Chemistry Panel.

Joint Submissions

3.12.6 The Panel will assess joint submissions on the same basis as unitary submissions. Institutions are expected to provide a clear rationale and to demonstrate evidence of genuine co-operation and integration of the collaboration beyond that which normally exists between academic and research staff working in different institutions.

Treatment of Evidence

3.12.7 The assessment of the quality of research will be based upon the Panel's professionally formed judgement, expertise and knowledge of the subject area informed by all the information presented in each submission. The Panel will take into consideration the following information in making its assessment, using the quality of research as the primary criterion:

  1. The quality of research as judged by publications and other output. There will be no prima facie discrimination between forms of research output.
  2. The extent of research and its quality as indicated by the activity of research students, research assistants, post-doctoral workers, visiting academic and industrial researchers and others who are deemed to add value to the research output.
  3. Evidence of support by external funders, as indicated by research income from Research Councils, industry, international agencies etc.
  4. Evidence of the vitality of a department, as demonstrated by research strategy and achievement over the assessment period.
  5. Evidence of national and international peer group recognition.

3.12.8 The Panel will look for indicators of quality within each of the above areas and will take account of future potential in addition to past achievement. In the case of junior appointments where there has been insufficient time to build indicators of research standing such as publications, external income and studentships, the Panel will take into account the promise of an individual within the context of a department's strategy for future development.

3.12.9 The size of a submission in terms of the number of researchers submitted will not be a factor in the assessment of quality.

Research Output (RA2)

3.12.10 The Panel will consider research output under the five main categories which are set out below in alphabetical order:

  1. Academic articles in printed or electronic journals
  2. Authored books
  3. Chapters in books
  4. Conference contributions including invited and keynote papers
  5. Other items which may include a wide range of works including patents, web-sites, materials, devices etc.

3.12.11 All forms of research output will be assessed on an equal basis and types of output will not be ranked against each other. For example, it will not be assumed that a patent is of lower standing than an article in a primary journal.

3.12.12 The Panel collectively will examine in detail at least 25% of the items of research output cited in submissions. The Panel will examine in detail across the range of items submitted, the selection being informed by the review process. Members of the Panel will have due regard for rigorous refereeing and editorial standards as indicators of quality although the absence of such review will not in itself be taken to imply lower quality.

3.12.13 The Panel will use its collective experience and expertise in assessing the quality and excellence of each item submitted. In its assessment of quality the Panel will take into account the quality of the concept, the methodology employed and the importance of the results. The primary criteria of excellence will be quality and originality.

3.12.14 Given that Chemistry is a discipline characterised by a high publication rate, the Panel would normally expect research active staff in categories A and C to cite four outputs although it is acknowledged that this will not be possible in all circumstances. Where a significant number of established research active staff do not cite four works produced within the period, there will be no automatic penalty. However, the Panel may view this as indicating a lack of research depth in the department. Due regard will be paid to mitigating circumstances of a structural and professional nature and departments are invited to provide comment within form RA6. The Panel will normally expect to receive different items of research output for each researcher submitted. Where co-cited items are submitted by an institution, the Panel would expect comment on the reasons for this from the institution in RA6.

Research Students and Research Studentships (RA3)

3.12.15 The number of research studentships and the number of higher degrees awarded will be regarded as evidence of research activity with the proportion of awarded doctorates being weighted more heavily than research masters. The Panel will not differentiate between sources of external funding for research studentships when making judgements of quality.

External Research Income (RA4)

3.12.16 The Panel will view external research income from Research Councils, industry, international agencies etc as a measure of peer judgement of research standing in relation to previous achievements and promise. The Panel will take into account future promise and potential in the case of young or new appointments within a department. The allocation of funds to improve infrastructure and facilities and the allocation of access to external research facilities will also be seen as relevant. External income deriving from non-peer reviewed sources will not necessarily be considered less valuable.

Textual Commentary

3.12.17 The following items are intended to provide a framework which departments may wish to use to structure the textual parts of their submissions i.e. RA5 and RA6. Adherence to this framework will enable the Panel to ensure that all factors are properly taken into account in the assessment of submissions. Departments are entitled to depart from the suggested structure where this is deemed necessary to provide a coherent account of their research activity.


Research Structure and Environment

3.12.18 Define research groupings in terms of who belongs to them (referring to RA1), their prime activities, how they operate and their main achievements.

3.12.19 List other units of assessment to which related work has been submitted and detail any difficulties of fit between departmental structure and the unit of assessment framework.

3.12.20 Explain the mechanisms and practices for promoting research and sustaining and developing an active and vital research culture.

3.12.21 Describe the nature and quality of the research infrastructure including instrumentation, technical and administrative support and provision for research students.

3.12.22 Describe any arrangements which are in place for promoting and supporting interdisciplinary or collaborative research.

3.12.23 Provide information on relationships with industry and commerce or other research users and where appropriate on the account taken of Government policy initiatives and objectives.

Staffing Policy

3.12.24 Describe the arrangements for the development and support of academic and research staff.

3.12.25 Describe 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.

3.12.26 Where appropriate, explain the role and contribution of category A* staff who have joined the department.

3.12.27 Where appropriate, comment on 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.

Research Strategy

3.12.28 Departments should provide a statement about the main objectives and activities in the evolution of research over the next five years. The Panel will wish to identify evidence of vitality and, within this context, will look for research plans which demonstrate clear themes and areas for future development. The Panel will evaluate plans against the other evidence detailed within the submission and will take into account the plans put forward for the 1996 RAE whilst acknowledging that the balance of interests within many departments may have changed. The statement should include reference to research works in progress which are not producing immediate visible outcomes.

Self Assessment

3.12.29 Departments should provide a self assessment which comprises an evaluation of their research structure and strategy in relation to plans submitted in 1996 and which identifies current strengths and weaknesses. The Panel will take into account any changes in the balance of interests within a department and encourages the submission of an objective and self critical submission which will enable it to assess the viability of the current research strategy.


Evidence of Esteem

3.12.30 The Panel advises departments to use this section to identify external indicators of research excellence. In particular, institutions should provide evidence identifying researchers as international leaders in their field or evidence of national and international peer group recognition such as:

  1. Prizes
  2. Visiting Professorships
  3. European grants and international collaborations
  4. Overseas postdoctoral and senior academic visitors
  5. Consultancies and industrial appointments
  6. Major grants
  7. Significant international and UK patents
  8. Both national and international invited lectureships
  9. Editorships and membership of editorial boards
  10. Equipment grants and funding for infrastructure

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.12.31 Departments should note any individual staff circumstances which have significantly affected their contribution to the submission e.g. periods of sick leave, career breaks, engagement on long term projects etc.

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

3.12.32 Departments are invited to comment on the contribution to research of staff who are not included in the submi

3.12.33 Departments are invited to comment on the subsequent employment destinations of staff and research personnel, as an indicator of research vitality.

Working Methods

3.12.34 Judgements will be based on all the evidence presented within submissions. The Panel will apply its expert judgement in the following ways:

  1. All members of the Panel will review all submissions and receive the standard statistical analyses performed for assessment panels.
  2. Sections of each submission will be assigned to a primary and secondary spokesperson who will assess in accordance with their expertise, the cited research outputs. The nominated spokespersons will be responsible for presenting a view to the Panel in session.
  3. Each of the areas above will be assessed by the Panel both on the contributions of individuals and the overall activity within a department.
  4. Cases where external specialist advice is required or where cross-referral to another panel is deemed appropriate will be identified. Advice from any external source will be considered by the Panel before any decision on ratings is taken.
  5. All discussions of submissions will take place in the presence of the Panel.
  6. All statistical and numerical data provided will be used in conjunction with and in the context of the qualitative information presented within the submission. Quantitative data will be considered in relation to the number of research active staff in order to ensure the equitable treatment of small and large departments.
  7. Excellence in all areas of research including specialist areas will be evaluated.
  8. Each Panel member will form his or her own judgement of each submission to reach a provisional grading. This provisional grading will be presented to the Panel which will reach a collective decision by consensus upon the final grading for each submission. In the event that a consensus cannot be attained, final gradings will be decided by a simple majority vote.

International Excellence

3.12.35 The Panel will draw upon its professional judgement in interpreting the rating scale. The terms 'national' and 'international' will be interpreted in terms of a quality standard. International excellence will be defined as research which the Panel judges to be competitive with the best cognate research conducted world-wide.

Non-UK Based Experts

3.12.36 The Panel will identify a group of non-UK based experts on the basis of professional judgement and knowledge of the UK research environment to provide advice on international standards. The non-UK based experts will receive the submissions which the Panel is considering grading 5 and 5* and those in the 5/4 border area together with the criteria for assessment. They will be asked to comment on the provisional gradings. Where a query is raised in relation to a provisional grading, the Panel will consider its decision in the light of the advice of the non-UK based experts. The final decision on gradings will rest with the Panel.

Last updated 17 April 2000

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