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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.36 American Studies, UoA 45

UoA Descriptor

3.36.1 The UoA includes: Canadian Studies and Politics; Literature of the USA; History of the USA (including Social, Economic, Labour and Intellectual History); Politics of the USA; American Studies; The Visual Arts, General Cultural Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies (including History, Economics, Politics/IR, US-Latin American relations, Literature, Cultural Studies, Gender Theory, Sociology and Social Anthropology); Caribbean Literature in English, Post-Colonial Theory. The Panel does not regard a nation-state or region as an insulated research topic and will be receptive to work dealing with comparative, trans-national or global issues in which American Studies broadly-defined is involved.

UoA Boundaries

3.36.2 By its definition American Studies overlaps with the boundaries of many other disciplines, for example, English Language and Literature; History; Geography; Iberian and Latin American Languages; Politics and International Studies; Social Studies and Communication, Cultural and Media Studies. The expertise in the Panel covers much of this overlap. If considered appropriate and beneficial to the assessment process the Panel will consult with other relevant Panels where submissions span the boundary between two or more Units of Assessment.


3.36.3 The Panel does not intend to convene a sub-panel. The inter- and multi-disciplinary construction of the Panel is such that there may not be any need for specialist advice but the Panel will be vigilant in identifying and seeking such advice if required.

Interdisciplinary Research

3.36.4 The Panel will consult with other Panels as appropriate to ensure an inclusive and equitable assessment of any interdisciplinary research submissions .By its nature, however, it is capable of dealing with inter- or multi-disciplinary research as well as single-disciplinary research.

Joint Submissions

3.36.5 The Panel will treat joint submissions similarly to submission from individual units. Institutions are encouraged to include clear and tangible evidence of collaboration and demonstrate the positive rationale in making such submissions.

Treatment of Evidence

3.36.6 The Panel will primarily base its assessment of submissions on its professionally informed judgements of the quality of cited publications and other research outputs. The Panel does not envisage using a quantitative approach to assessing evidence.

Research Output (RA2)

3.36.7 The principal categories in which it is envisaged that works will be cited are listed below: no ranking or weighting should be inferred from the order in which they are listed.

  1. Single authored and co-authored books. Textbooks will be considered if they embody the outcome of research. The Panel is aware that publishers often market a research monograph as a textbook for commercial gain. Creative writing and translations will be considered in so far as they represent original investigation undertaken in order to enhance knowledge and understanding. The Panel would expect this to be clearly demonstrated.
  2. Academic Journal Articles including articles in electronic journals.
  3. Chapters in books.
  4. Short works including inaugural lectures, published conference contributions, pamphlets and working papers.
  5. Editorships.

i. Editorships of scholarly editions of texts and translations

ii. Editorships of collections of essays or guest editorships of journals with substantial contribution.

  1. Teaching materials. The development and production of published teaching materials including course textbooks and reference materials will be taken into account to the extent that they involve original investigation rather than the reiteration of existing material.
  2. Higher Education Pedagogic Research in so far as it contains research content and contributes to the knowledge of the subject.
  3. Re-issues or translations into other languages of books or articles first published before the assessment period will only be considered eligible if they contain substantial revisions involving new research.

3.36.8 The Panel will accept output in other media (such as CD-ROM or papers placed on the Internet) as published material to be judged by the same criteria as other sources.

3.36.9 The Panel collectively will examine in detail virtually all of the items of research cited in submissions. The Panel will use its professional judgement when assessing the quality of outputs. The judgement of the Panel members will not be prejudiced positively or negatively by the research outlet in which material appears.

3.36.10 In addition to the English language the Panel are able to read outputs in Spanish, Portuguese, French and German. Research outputs made in any other language should be accompanied by an abstract in English.

Research Students and Research Studentships (RA3)

3.36.11 The Panel will give credit to submissions that demonstrate the existence of successful postgraduate research programmes. It recognises, however, that the size of some departments and demands for efficient allocation of resources may make it inappropriate for some institutions to recruit and develop postgraduate students. The Panel will regard all sources of studentships equally.

External Research Income (RA4)

3.36.12 The Panel recognises that research income is not necessarily an indicator or pre-condition of high quality research in these subjects, but will give due credit where there is evidence of the generation of research income and subsequent output (actual or prospective).

Textual Commentary


3.36.13 The Panel would expect to see a concise statement of the department's current research profile and its strengths at the beginning of RA5 followed by the information listed below.

Research Structure and Environment

3.36.14 Nature and quality of the research infrastructure, including facilities for research students. Description of the arrangements for the development of the research work of the staff.

3.36.15 Explanation of the mechanisms and practices for promoting research and sustaining and developing an active and vital research culture.

3.36.16 Arrangements which are in place for supporting interdisciplinary and/or collaborative research.

3.36.17 Definition of research groups, where such groups exist, who belongs to them (referring to RA1), their prime activities, how they operate and their main achievements. The Panel recognises that an emphasis on collective research strategy may imply a level of institutional planning that is at variance with the high quality of much research by individual scholars. The Panel will not penalise the absence of research groupings nor the presence of individuals who cannot be assimilated into such groups.

3.36.18 List of other Units of Assessment to which related work has been submitted and details of any difficulties of fit between departmental structure and the Unit of Assessment framework.

3.36.19 Where appropriate, information on relationships with industry and commerce or other research users and on the account taken of public policy initiatives and objectives, either in the UK or overseas.

Staffing Policy

3.36.20 The Panel notes that the quality of a particular work cited may compensate for the absence of other works. However, in the absence in a submission of a satisfactory explanation, the Panel may conclude that a lack of research depth in a department is indicated when a significant number of established active researchers cite less than four works each.

3.36.21 The Panel is anxious not to penalise institutions which have appointed new members of staff without an established research track record, especially when there is evidence of an effective institutional policy of developing research. Therefore the Panel would hope to see, where appropriate, a description of any arrangements for developing the research of younger and/or new researchers and for integrating them into a wider, supportive research structure. Departments should explain how Category C staff are integrated into the work of the Unit.

3.36.22 Where appropriate, an explanation of the role and contribution of category A* staff who have joined the department.

3.36.23 Where appropriate, comments 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

3.36.24 Statement about the main objectives and activities in research over the next five years, including any ongoing research work that is not producing immediate visible outcomes. The Panel is anxious to avoid penalising small departments by, for instance, imposing on them a model of research activity that can only be met, or can much more easily be met, by larger departments.

3.36.25 The research organisation and future plans stated in this section will act as a framework for assessing information in the rest of the submission and will be compared with the 1996 RA5 if appropriate. It would therefore be useful if an assessment of the success of the research plans put forward in the 1996 RAE could be included where relevant. The Panel is aware that it may not be possible to carry out such an assessment where, for example, new departments have been created or existing departments have merged.


3.36.26 The Panel would expect to see the following information in RA6.

Evidence of Esteem

3.36.27 A list of indicators of peer esteem which relate to the staff submitted (e.g. editorship of scholarly journals, awards and honours, contributions to the academic and public good, invited lectures, conference participation, organisation and hosting, and other items of special note.)

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.36.28 Note any individual staff circumstances which have significantly affected their contribution to the submission (e.g. periods of sick leave, career breaks, engagements on long-term projects etc).

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

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

Additional Information

3.36.30 Institutions should draw attention to grants and income that are not administered through an institution's own accounts and hence are not eligible for inclusion in form RA4. Where the department has a website they are invited to draw attention to it. Institutions are also invited to note any recent staff PhDs, and any publications by research students which do not appear elsewhere in the return.

Working Methods

3.36.31 Two panel members will be assigned to introduce discussion upon each submission at the Panel's first meeting and items which require advice from other Panels will be identified either at this meeting or before. Preliminary assessments will then be agreed in a highly provisional form. The chair will ask certain panel members to speak at the next meeting to clusters of units grouped round a particular grading or borderline. All submissions will be discussed and it is hoped to agree gradings in principle for each of them then.

3.36.32 There will be further meetings to allow specific queries about particular submissions to be followed up; to allow panel members to do further reading of what have been identified as key or problem works; to seek the views of specialist advisers and other panels; and to allow further reflection before the final and definitive decisions on the gradings are taken. Decisions will be taken by consensus whenever possible but in exceptional circumstances decisions will be reached by a vote. If the Panel is deadlocked the Chair will have a casting vote.

3.36.33 In interpreting the rating scale the Panel will use its professional judgement. The Panel understands international excellence to be a standard equivalent to the best work in its field being undertaken anywhere in the world. It will take account of the extent to which the work advances the subject, and increases understanding and knowledge. Consideration will be given to the originality, depth, range, accuracy and clarity of the work. Originality can be in the form of using new material or in rethinking interpretation. The Panel will consult a group of non-UK based advisers before awarding the highest grades to any submission. Members of this group will receive all submissions which the Panel proposes to grade 5 or 5* plus a sample of those it proposes to grade 4 if they exist Panel members are embedded in the international culture of American Studies so are well placed to use this judgement in identifying research of international excellence.

Last updated 19 April 2000

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