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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.37 Middle Eastern and African Studies, UoA 46

UoA Descriptor

3.37.1. The UoA includes the languages, literatures, history (pre-1800 and modern), religions, politics and political economy, international relations and strategic studies, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, geography, and art history of the Middle East and Africa.

UoA Boundaries

3.37.2 Because of the Area Studies character of this UoA, the Panel anticipates that there will be numerous overlaps with other UoAs, such as:

Geography (UoA 35); Anthropology (UoA 37); Economics and Econometrics (UoA 38); Politics and International Studies (UoA 39); Sociology (UoA 42); Linguistics (UoA 56); Archaeology (UoA 58); History (UoA 59); History of Art, Architecture and Design (UoA 60) and Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies (UoA 63).

3.37.3 Archaeology of the Ancient Near East should be submitted to the Archaeology Panel. However, the UoA 46 Panel is willing to assess research on Ancient Near Eastern Languages (such as Akkadian, Egyptian and Ugaritic). It is also willing to assess research on Jews and Muslims outside the Middle East and Africa, on Zionism, and on the State of Israel.

3.37.4 The expertise of the Panel's and Sub-panels' membership will reflect the diversity of the UoA. While this will be adequate in most cases, the Panel recognises that it may receive submissions that include elements falling outside its remit. It will cross-refer such elements to the relevant Panels, or seek the opinion of external advisers, and take their assessments into account in making its own overall assessment of the submission. Responsibility for awarding the final rating for the submission will remain with the UoA 46 Panel.

3.37.5 Cross-referral will involve a meeting with other Panels at which at least one member of the UoA 46 Panel will be present. Where other Panels feel that they too lack the appropriate expertise, the UoA 46 Panel will make ad hoc specialist advisory arrangements.

3.37.6 In cases of interdisciplinary research, the Panel will assess both the individual disciplines involved and the outcomes that result from combining them. Where the nature of the interdisciplinary research requires it, it will cross-refer to other Panels or seek external advice.

3.37.7 It is the responsibility of the submitting institution to identify in RA5 those elements of a submission that do not fit easily within the boundaries of the UoA and to request cross-referral to one or more Panels using the cover sheet.

3.37.8 Where it judges that the assessment process will be enhanced, the Panel will make cross-referrals of its own volition.

3.37.9 Joint submissions will be treated in the same manner as those from single institutions.

Research Output (RA2)

3.37.10 The Panel expects that the principal categories of research output that will be cited are as follows:

a) Academic journal articles

b) Bibliographies (to the extent that they embody research)

c) Books, including:

  1. Single-authored works
  2. Co-authored works
  3. Edited special issues of journals or collections of essays, with substantial research input on the part of the researcher
  4. Scholarly editions of oral or written texts
  5. Translations with introduction and commentary

d) Chapters in books, including:

  1. Contributions to conference proceedings
  2. Contributions to Festschriften
  3. Essays in collections

e) Creative writing (to the extent that it embodies research)

f) Short works, including:

  1. Dictionary entries (to the extent that they embody research)
  2. Encyclopaedia entries (to the extent that they embody research)
  3. Pamphlets
  4. Published lectures
  5. Research reports and consultancy documents embodying research for public or private bodies

g) Teaching materials (to the extent that they embody research) including:

  1. Readers
  2. Resource books
  3. Student guides
  4. Textbooks

h) Other categories, including:

  1. Electronic media (e.g. CD-ROM)
  2. Microfiche
  3. Journals on the web
  4. Video and audio tape recordings

3.37.11 No ranking or weighting should be inferred from the order in which these items are listed. The Panel will seek to assess the quality of the research regardless of its medium of publication.

3.37.12 In the case of scholarly editions and/or translations, the Panel will form a view as to how far these works embody the results of research within the RAE definition.

3.37.13 Editorial activity which involves bringing to press work done by others can be submitted in so far as it embodies research on the part of the researcher. The onus lies on the submitting institution to identify (in the 'Other relevant details' field on RA2) the research element involved in such cases.

3.37.14 Where an individual has edited a book or a special issue of a journal and has also contributed one or more items to the same publication, these may be submitted separately or together. Dictionary entries or encyclopaedia articles may likewise be entered separately or as a related group.

3.37.15 Collections of articles by the same author will only be given credit in so far as they embody work done within the assessment period. Similarly, reissues or translations into other languages of books or articles first published before the assessment period will only be rated if they contain revisions involving new research. Submissions should indicate in RA2 the date of first publication and, in the 'Other relevant details' field on RA2, the extent to which the reissue includes new material.

3.37.16 Teaching materials including textbooks will be taken into account to the extent that they involve genuine new research rather than the reiteration of existing material. Publications involving research into teaching methods within the field of the UoA will be considered and may be cross-referred as appropriate.

3.37.17 Where co-authored and co-edited works have been cited, the nature and proportional extent of the contribution of each named researcher should be indicated in the 'Other relevant details' field on RA2.

Textual Commentary

3.37.18 RA5 and RA6 should be used to set the research output cited in RA2 and the other research data listed in RA3 and RA4 in context. They should address the following points:


3.37.19 Identify, where appropriate, research clusters within the department, and, if these constitute formal research centres, list their membership, define their aims and objectives, and describe their principal achievements, their research plans and any inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary collaboration in which they are involved. If appropriate, research students (RA3) and research income (RA4) should be assigned to these research centres. The Panel recognises that within many departments individual researchers may be the sole focus of research in their particular fields.

3.37.20 Describe the department's general research strategy, and the mechanisms it has put in place for promoting research and for sustaining and developing a research culture, such as: policies for developing personal research among younger or newer members of staff; facilities available for research students; arrangements for encouraging interdisciplinary research.

3.37.21 Outline the department's research plans for the next five years.

3.37.22 Flag ongoing research that has not yielded major publication within the period of assessment, indicating the outcomes expected and when the research should be completed.

3.37.23 Assess the extent to which the objectives specified in the 1996 RA5 have been met.

3.37.24 Provide information about outside bodies (such as government agencies, commerce or industry) which have been users of the department's research.

3.37.25 Indicate any mismatch between the submission and UoA 46 and list other UoAs to which related research has been submitted. Work to be cross-referred to other Panels should be cited at this point.


Indicators of Esteem

3.37.26 List indicators of national and international peer esteem that would help corroborate the research ranking of the staff listed in RA1. These might include membership of peer review bodies or of learned institutions, honorary doctorates, editorships of journals or series, research consultancies, and research fellowships.

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.37.27 Identify staff who are only at the start of their research careers, and staff whose research output has been affected by special circumstances such as illness or career breaks. Staff who are involved in long-term projects that have not yet yielded substantial publication should also be identified, and the nature and time-scale of this research indicated.

3.37.28 Demonstrate how category C staff have contributed to the department's research. The extent of their involvement with the department should be quantified, and how their research fits into the department's research plans clarified.

3.37.29 Comment on the category A* staff who have joined the department, explaining their research role and contribution, and how their recruitment fits into the department's research plans.

3.37.30 Comment on how the departure of category A*, B and D staff has affected the strength, coherence and research culture of the department.

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

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


3.37.32 The Panel will establish three Sub-panels to advise it on the quality of the published research cited in RA2, namely:

  1. African Studies
  2. Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
  3. Hebrew, Jewish and Ancient Near East Studies.

3.37.33 Sub-panels will be chaired by members of the main Panel. They will comprise at least two members of the main Panel and additional advisers appointed to supplement the expertise available on the main Panel.

3.37.34 In certain specialised areas of research, the Panel may seek the advice of specialist advisers from the UK and abroad. Specialist advisers will be briefed on the aims and objectives of the RAE and will be given guidance on the nature of their reports. These reports will be considered by the appropriate Sub-panel.

3.37.35 In cases where the nature of the research requires it, the Panel will also seek the advice of research users.

Working Methods

3.37.36 All submissions will undergo the same process of assessment. The Panel will establish checklists of procedures and ensure that they are followed equitably in the assessment of each submission both at Sub-panel and at main Panel level.

3.37.37 The Panel collectively will examine in detail virtually all of the items of research output cited in the submissions. The work of each researcher identified in RA1 as Category A, A* or C will be assessed individually. The main Panel will allocate the assessment of the research output cited in RA2 to the appropriate sub-panel and designate readers or reviewers (as appropriate to the medium of publication). The readers or reviewers will report back to the Sub-panels, which will rate each researcher's output as international, national or sub-national. Sub-panels will report their ratings to the main Panel through their Chairs.

3.37.38 When assessing the quality of submissions, the Panel will apply the same criteria to all research output regardless of the medium of publication. The following criteria will be used as appropriate:

  1. Originality: the work represents an advance in the understanding of its field or a significant contribution to knowledge.
  2. Intellectual (including methodological) rigour, coherence and analytical insight.
  3. Conceptual scope; importance of issues addressed; extent of the work's implications for other researchers.
  4. Accuracy and depth of scholarship; evidence of familiarity with other work in the field.

3.37.39 International excellence is concerned with the identification of research of the highest standards attainable. In judging whether or not work meets a standard of international excellence, the Panel will take account of the standing which it has or is likely to have in the international community of scholars and its impact or probable impact upon them. Impact is measured by the extent to which informed debate in the subject is or will be enhanced.

3.37.40 In judging whether or not work meets a standard of national excellence, the Panel will take account of the standing which it has or is likely to have in the national community of scholars. Individuals whose research fails to satisfy the criteria listed in 3.37.39 will be judged as being below the threshold of national excellence.

3.37.41 Sub-panels will be asked to identify any evidence in the submission that may corroborate their judgement. For example publication in a rigorously edited and refereed journal with international circulation may also be seen as corroborating evidence of international excellence.

3.37.42 However, the Panel recognises, and will instruct sub-panels accordingly, that it is suitable for some types of research (e.g. particular specialisms and work of a highly innovative or inter-disciplinary character) to be published in less prominent journals, or in non-standard forms. Allowances will be made where relevant, subject to the proviso that such research should be internationally or nationally accessible.

3.37.43 The main Panel will have sole responsibility for assessing the submission as a whole and for assigning the final rating. The Panel will arrive at its decisions on the basis of consensus. Only as a last resort will a vote be taken, in which case the rating will be determined by a simple majority, with the Chair retaining a casting vote.

3.37.44 The Panel will base its overall assessment of the submissions on its professionally informed judgement of the quality of the published output cited in RA2. It will take into account evidence of an established research culture within the department, as indicated by such factors as its research vitality, its research management and planning, the synergy between its staff and other researchers, whether internal or external, and its prospects for continuing research development (RA5). The Panel will also take into account esteem indicators (RA6), the extent and nature of the department's postgraduate research activity (RA3a and RA3b) and its generation of research income (RA4).

3.37.45 Since the Panel will base its assessment primarily on the quality of the research, researchers who do not cite four publications will not be automatically penalised. The Panel, however, will normally see a high volume of high quality research as evidence of the vigour and consistency of both the individual researcher's and of the department's research programmes.

3.37.46 Relative to the size of the department, the Panel will regard the number of research students and research studentships, and the level of research income as evidence of research vitality. It will treat all funding sources as being of equal value. The Panel will make due allowance for the fact that some areas of research have less well-established sources of research funding.

3.37.47 The Panel will consult five non-UK based experts whose known professional judgement and knowledge of the UK research environment will enable them to provide advice on international standards. Submissions rated borderline 4/5, 5 and 5* will be sent to these non-UK based experts for their consideration. Each expert will receive each departmental submission in full, together with a brief as to their role in the assessment process. These experts will report back individually to the Panel, which will consider their advice. The final decision on grading will rest with the UoA 46 Panel.

Last updated 19 April 2000

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