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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.16 Applied Mathematics, UoA 23

UoA Descriptor

3.16.1 Applied mathematics consists of the development of, the analysis of, and the solution or approximate solution of, mathematical models including those arising in physical and biological sciences, engineering and technology, and the development and application of mathematical theories and techniques that further these objectives. There are therefore overlaps between applied mathematics and (a) the application areas and (b) other branches of mathematics and physics, including theoretical physics and, in the context of numerical or symbolic calculation, (c) with computer science. The unit also includes pedagogic research in applied mathematics.

UoA Boundaries

3.16.2 Where the Panel believes that it requires additional advice in order to make suitably informed judgements, the submission will be:

  1. Referred to an appropriate specialist adviser, or
  2. Referred to the Panel of an appropriate other Unit of Assessment,

with a request for advice on the part of the submission concerned


3.16.3 There will be a sub-panel of users of research to provide advice to the Panel.

Interdisciplinary Research

3.16.4 The Panel is concerned to ensure that interdisciplinary work receives due weight. Where the Panel believes that it requires additional advice in order to make suitably informed judgements, interdisciplinary submissions will be referred for comment to an appropriate specialist adviser working in the same or a similar interdisciplinary area, or in the associated discipline. In the latter case, consultation will be via the Panel for the associated discipline, where the Panel judges this appropriate.

Joint Submissions

3.16.5 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

3.16.6 Quality of submissions will be judged mainly on the basis of the following indicators:

  1. The quality of the listed research outputs(RA2);
  2. Evidence of peer esteem, national and international prestige (RA6);
  3. The extent of postgraduate and postdoctoral research activity (RA1 and RA3);
  4. Evidence of esteem suggested by external funding for research support (RA4 and RA5);
  5. Further evidence of research culture and vitality (RA5 and RA6); and
  6. Prospects for continuing development (RA5).

Of these, the first will be the primary indicator.

3.16.7 the Panel will be concerned to identify evidence of vitality and the existence of a prevailing successful research culture.

3.16.8 the size of the group submitted to a unit of assessment will affect the rating only insofar as it bears on the research culture. The Panel will pay particular attention to the arrangements for sustaining a research culture when considering submissions containing small numbers of researchers.

3.16.9 the research of individuals returned as research-active will be assessed in terms of their contribution irrespective of the category to which they belong.

Research Output (RA2)

3.16.10 The Panel expects that it may be asked to consider:

  1. Papers in journals & periodicals;
  2. Papers in conference proceedings;
  3. Contributions to books;
  4. Sole-authorship books;
  5. Published software;
  6. Electronic publications; and
  7. Published technical reports.

3.16.11 research outputs will be judged against criteria in normal use by internationally recognised journals for acceptance for publication, in particular: originality, contribution to the advancement of knowledge and understanding and impact on the subject.

3.16.12 The Panel collectively will review the material contained in each submission and will examine in detail a minimum of 20% of the items of research output cited in submissions. The items to be examined in detail will be determined as an outcome of the reviewing process. The figure of 20% is a minimum; the Panel will examine in detail that proportion of output required to form a judgement.

3.16.13 There will be no use of any formal ranked list of journals in terms of their standing measured by impact factors and the like.

3.16.14 The Panel will give credit to innovative mathematical research per se, to the use of innovative mathematical ideas in established applications, and to the illumination of scientific or technological ideas and principles through the sophisticated use of existing mathematical techniques or modelling. The value of authoritative and carefully crafted review articles will be recognised.

3.16.15 The Panel considers that amongst active researchers a fairly high publication rate is the norm within Applied Mathematics in Departments aspiring to national or international excellence. Departments submitting an average of much below four listed outputs per researcher, are invited to provide a short comment on this in forms RA5 or RA6.

Research Students and Research Studentships (RA3)

3.16.16 The numbers of research students, research studentships and research-related higher degrees awarded, relative to the number of research active staff, will be regarded as indicators of quality, doctorates awarded carrying greatest weight. No differentiation will be made regarding the source of funding of research students.

External & Internal Research Income(RA4)

3.16.17 The award of external research support obtained on a competitive basis following peer review will be taken to be one indicator of the standing of individual researchers and the department. The Panel recognises that financial support from other sources may also be an indicator of external recognition. No formula will be attached to external funding; the Panel recognises that differing funding opportunities exist for different sub-areas. The Panel also recognises that some quality research is not accompanied by external support. 3.16.18 Other sources of income not noted on RA4 (including any provided by the Institution) and the benefit derived from it, should be highlighted on RA6.


Research Structure and Environment

3.16.19 The Panel requests that, where it is natural, researchers are grouped according to coherent fields of study. Where research output cited is interdisciplinary, or lies outside the descriptor of Applied Mathematics, a statement to explain the place of this output in relation to the remainder of the submission is invited in RA5.

Research Strategy

3.16.20 The Department's current and future plans, and its methods for the promotion and stimulation of research, will be tested against the information provided in the rest of the submission. The Panel will have the 1996 RA5 before it and institutions may wish to comment on their success in achieving their aims as described there, but the Panel will recognise the limitations of such long-term planning.

3.16.21 The Panel expects that submissions will contain one or more of the following:

  1. A statement about the main objectives and activities in research over the next five years, together with a statement of how these objectives may be met. The Panel's expectations will be realistic;
  2. Information on relationships with industry and commerce or other research users, and (where appropriate) on the account taken of Government policy initiatives and objectives, where these have an impact upon research culture and vitality;
  3. A statement of the extent, nature and use of external research support;
  4. Information on the mechanisms and practices for promoting research and sustaining and developing an active and vital research culture (for example seminar programmes, and academic exchanges);
  5. Information on the nature and quality of the research infrastructure, including facilities for research students and the mechanisms for encouraging, and guiding progress of research students;
  6. Information relating to the use of Research Assistants in supporting research;
  7. A statement on any arrangements which are in place for supporting interdisciplinary or collaborative research;
  8. Information about ongoing research work that is not producing immediate visible outcomes;
  9. A list of other Units of Assessment to which related work has been submitted, and any difficulties of fit between departmental structure and the Unit of Assessment framework.

Staffing Policy

3.16.22 The Panel expects that submissions will contain one or more of the following:

  1. The arrangements for the development and support of the research work of staff, (for example, sabbatical arrangements, differential teaching loads, and travel funds);
  2. 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. The Panel will pay special attention to the encouragement and opportunities given to young researchers of all categories;
  3. Where appropriate, the role and contribution of researchers who have been recruited during the assessment period;
  4. Where appropriate, 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.


3.16.23 Submissions may contain, in the context of material reported elsewhere in the submission and of any additional information (e.g., on research output, on research themes developed by individuals or groups, on inter-disciplinary work, and on research collaboration) a self assessment of the success of measures promoting research, along with comments on any proposals for future changes.


Evidence of Esteem

3.16.24 The Panel will take note of evidence of research achievement and national and international standing as evidenced for example by:

  1. External invitations, e.g. invited or plenary talks at major international conferences;
  2. Major awards and prizes;
  3. Significant research collaborations with members of other Institutions;
  4. Editorships of major journals;
  5. Organising a major international meeting;
  6. EPSRC College membership.

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.16.25 As indicated above, the Panel invites submissions to note any circumstances which have significantly affected the contribution of individuals to the submission (e.g. periods of sick leave, career breaks, engagement on long-term projects, etc.).

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

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

Working Methods

3.16.27 The Panel will not use a formulaic approach to assessing the submissions.

3.16.28 The assessment process will consist of four stages. First, all Panel members will read all submissions.

3.16.29 Second, two Panel members will take responsibility for assessing each submission, and two Panel members will take responsibility for assessing the contribution of each individual submitted. Any requirements for additional information arising from ambiguities or apparent omissions in the submission will also be identified. The Sub-Panel of users will be consulted on the submissions at this stage.

3.16.30 Third, there will be discussion of each submission by the whole Panel, which will lead to assignment of a preliminary set of ratings. When assigning gradings, institutions of roughly comparable preliminary grade will be grouped together for discussion in order to maintain consistency. Each submission will be graded on its individual merits. The overall process of reaching a set of ratings will be iterative, with special care being taken with borderline cases. The non-UK based experts will be consulted at this point for independent comment.

3.16.31 Fourth, there will be resolution of the borderline cases and a re-evaluation of all ratings.

3.16.32 Formulaic definitions of national or international significance or excellence will not be applied, and the Panel members will use their professional judgement to make decisions. The term international excellence will be applied to submissions where, in the judgement of the Panel, the research is on a par with the best work being done in the discipline world-wide. The Panel will present its submissions which are provisionally graded 5 or 5*, as well as a selection of those provisionally graded 4, to up to five non-UK based experts for independent comment. There will then be a further re-evaluation of ratings if required.

3.16.33 It is anticipated that all submissions will be given a final rating as a result of consensus after discussion as above, and with recourse to voting only as a last resort.

Last updated 17 April 2000

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