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Another UoA

Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.28 Law, UoA 36

UoA Descriptor

3.28.1 The UoA includes all doctrinal, theoretical, empirical, comparative or other studies of law and legal phenomena (including criminology).

Assessment Criteria

3.28.2 The Panel will primarily base its assessment of submissions on its professionally informed judgement of the quality of the publications and other assessable output cited on form RA2. However, in reaching its assessment the Panel will take into account the extent to which the department has a research culture, in particular in the case of a submission which might otherwise fall slightly short of a relevant borderline or for which the number of staff returned as research active is very small (two FTEs or less). In this respect it will take into consideration the quantitative information in forms RA3a, RA3b and RA4, and the unit's 1996 research plans (where submitted in the 1996 exercise), and details of the current arrangements for promoting and supporting research, research plans for the future and other information or specific circumstances provided in the textual commentary of RA5 and RA6. The Panel's judgement in relation to these matters will be qualitative.

3.28.3 In assessing the extent to which a HEI has developed a research culture, the Panel will look with particular interest at the institution's current arrangements for promoting research, including any special arrangements for less experienced members of staff. Institutions are invited to give evidence of the operation of any arrangements described in at least the period January to December 2000.

3.28.4 Institutions should not feel inhibited from using RA5 and RA6 as an opportunity for a critical and constructive self-assessment of performance in relation to the issues detailed above in the textual commentary.

3.28.5 Departments are asked to describe in RA5 the sources of research income listed in RA4, in particular to show to what extent income was obtained by competition or peer review, and the distribution of research income between staff listed on RA1. The Panel recognises that not all areas of legal research lend themselves equally to external funding.

3.28.6 No distinction will be drawn between basic/strategic research and applied research.

International and National Excellence

3.28.7 The Panel will assess international excellence on the basis that work can be regarded as of international excellence if it is a primary reference point in its field (in the sense that it is, or in the opinion of the Panel is likely to be, recognised as amongst the best in its field), and of national excellence if it is a reference point in its field (in the sense that it contributes to knowledge and understanding).

Research Outputs (RA2)

3.28.8 Outputs may be in paper or electronic form.

3.28.9 All work which is eligible for submission must be publicly available. The sole exception to this is where completed work is not in the public domain because it is confidential. This may include, for example, reports produced for companies which are commercially sensitive or for government bodies which will not be published. In the case of such work the submitting institution must have the prior permission of the person or organisation to whom the work is confidential, that the output may be made available for assessment.

3.28.10. The Panel recognises that scholarly work of high quality and originality may be found across a variety of forms of output, including articles, notes, books, loose-leaf works, research reports, electronic courseware and software.

3.28.11 In relation to books, student textbooks and books written for the legal or other professions will be regarded as research output provided that they exhibit significant scholarly material. Books consisting of a collection of statutes or cases, or both, will not normally be regarded as research output. However, if they include a significant amount of scholarly commentary or demonstrate a novel approach they will be so regarded.

3.28.12 The Panel will base its assessment of a new edition of an existing book on the extent to which the edition has been revised. There is no objection to the inclusion of more than one edition of the same book as distinct items of research output provided there has been significant revision between editions.

3.28.13 The Panel has not established a list of the relative standing of journals. Like other types of output, articles or notes in journals will be assessed solely on the basis of their own merits.

3.28.14 Book reviews (as opposed to review articles, which will be treated as journal articles) will not normally be treated as research output. Nor will editing a book or journal without making an identifiable scholarly contribution. Where such a contribution may not be evident it should be explained in the 'Other relevant details' field on RA2.

3.28.15 The Panel will assess the quality of an output. Length is not necessarily an indicator of quality.

3.28.16 A joint research outputs will count for each author for whom it is entered on RA2, irrespective of whether it is listed for other joint authors, each author receiving full credit for what the Panel estimates to be his or her contribution. It will be assumed that each author contributed to the parts or in the shares indicated in the output itself or in the department's submission (in the 'Other relevant details' field on RA2) or, if no indication is given of which author was responsible for which part or in what shares, that joint authors contributed equally to a piece, unless the quality of the other output listed for the persons concerned makes the relevant assumption implausible.

3.28.17 The Panel will not take into account the number of publications or other forms of output beyond those cited in form RA2. Submissions should not, therefore, include any list or count of the total published or other output of research active staff.

Research Activity

3.28.18 The Panel will assess the quality of the research activity of each individual member of staff listed in form RA1. There is no expectation that the research activity submitted should cover a broad range of legal subjects.

3.28.19 It is recognised that less established members of staff (in particular those new to academic careers within the research assessment period) may well have research outputs which do not equate with what would reasonably be expected of a more experienced researcher. The Panel will take into account the length of time such staff have held an academic post. It will evaluate their work in terms of what is reasonably attainable by an active researcher in the early stage of his or her career, and it will set this research activity in the context of the research culture demonstrated in the department as a whole. Departments should not feel inhibited from including staff new to research since 1 January 1996 simply because their output is not comparable to that of a more experienced member of staff. However, where very recently appointed staff with no research outputs are included, institutions should explain in the confidential section of RA6 the grounds for believing that such staff will be fully research active during the years following the census date.

3.28.20 The Panel will note any individual staff circumstances that have significantly affected their contribution to the submission in accordance with the criteria set out for RAE 2001 as a whole.

Weighting of Categories of Staff

3.28.21 The Panel will give only a marginal weighting to former staff in categories B and D in terms of its assessment of the strength, coherence and research culture of a department at the census date. The work of staff in category C will not be given less weight purely because of their different contractual relationship. However, the Panel will seek to assess the extent to which the work of staff in category C is contributing to the research culture of the department at the census date. The Panel will take full account of Category A* staff when making judgements of quality.

3.28.22 Where part-time staff contracted for less than 0.4 FTE are returned on RA1, institutions are invited to comment in RA6 as to their engagement in the research activity of the department.

Assessment Process

3.28.23 Each submission will be read by every member of the Panel. It will not be possible for each member to be familiar with every publication or other form of output cited in the submission. The Panel collectively will examine in detail at least one research output listed for each member of staff entered on form RA1 (and thus a minimum of 25% of the total number of research outputs listed will be examined in detail). Further, a sufficient proportion of work from each individual will be examined to enable the Panel to make an informed judgement on the quality of the work presented for the individual, save where it is unnecessary for the purpose of determining the institution's rating to reach a conclusion on the quality of a particular individual's work. The Panel's working methods described in the next paragraph will ensure that at least two members of the Panel (or a member of the Panel and a specialist adviser) have examined work cited in respect of each individual listed on form RA2.

3.28.24 Each submission will be allocated to a member of the Panel. That member will examine work cited in respect of each individual listed in form RA2 and will introduce the discussion of the submission as a whole when the Panel comes to assess it. The eventual assessment will be that of the Panel and not that of the 'lead' member. So as better to inform the Panel's discussion and assessment, work cited in respect of each individual listed in form RA2 will also be allocated to members of the Panel or external advisers with the appropriate specialist knowledge for, respectively, examination or advice.

External Specialist Advisers

3.28.25 Where the Panel considers that it lacks the specialist knowledge to assess a piece of work, it will seek the advice of an appropriate expert. The role of an external specialist adviser is to assist the Panel to form its view on the piece of work in question. The adviser will not play any part in grading the piece of work or the submission as a whole.

Sub-Panel for Scottish Law

3.28.26 A sub-panel will be established to assist the Panel in its assessment of publications relating to Scottish law. The sub-panel will be chaired by a member of the Panel with appropriate knowledge and experience. It will include up to four other members drawn from Scottish law schools. Another member of the main Panel (normally the Chair) will attend as an observer. The sub-panel will not rank or grade the submissions from Scottish institutions. Instead, it will provide advice to the main Panel in order to enable it to reach an informed decision as to the assessment of those submissions. The working arrangements set out above will operate in relation to submissions including research in Scottish law. Institutions are invited to indicate on form RA2 work which in their opinion should be submitted to the sub-panel.

Interdisciplinary research

3.28.27 Normally the Panel will itself assess work of an interdisciplinary nature. This includes research into legal education. Work which rests on methodology which the Panel does not feel competent to assess (for example research into education which is primarily pedagogic with only a coincidental connection to law or legal studies) will be referred either to a specialist adviser or to the relevant subject panel for advice

Users of research

3.28.28 In assessing work of an applied nature, the Panel will seek advice from users of research as specialist advisers where this is necessary for a proper evaluation of the research work submitted. Who will be consulted and on which parts of the research will be determined in the light of the submissions received.

Non-UK Experts

3.28.29 Before a rating of 5 or 5* is awarded to any submission, the work of selected individuals from that submission will be referred to one of a list of non-UK experts for advice on the way in which the Panel has applied the standard of international excellence.


3.28.30 The Panel will endeavour to obtain a consensus on the final grading of any institution but if necessary a vote will be taken. If the vote is tied a decision in favour of a higher grade will be entered.

Template for RA5 and RA6

3.28.31 Institutions are asked to include in RA5 and RA6 the information set out below. Institutions are encouraged, so as is possible within the length limit, to give evidence of the operation of the arrangements or activities described for at least the period January to December 2000.


3.28.32 Current arrangements for promoting and supporting research at both departmental and university level, particularly in relation to less experienced members of staff.

3.28.33 Research achievements, particularly in the light of research plans submitted in form RA5 in the 1996 RAE (if a submission was made in 1996).

3.28.34 Any particular strategies for research, or the promotion of research, in the future.


Evidence of Esteem

3.28.35 Evidence of research activity not eligible for listing in RA2 (ie other than publications).

3.28.36 Indicators of research excellence or peer esteem relating to particular individuals.

3.28.37 Indicators of research excellence or peer esteem relating to research groupings or the department as a whole.

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.28.38 Matters affecting the output of particular members of staff. (It should be noted that in accordance with the general criteria for RAE 2001, these may include career breaks, parental or compassionate leave, absence because of illness or engagement on long-term projects, but that administrative duties, whether at departmental or university level, will not be taken into account and should not be listed).

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

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

Last updated 17 April 2000

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