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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.5 Pre-Clinical Studies, Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology, UoA 5, 6, 7, 8

UoA Descriptor

3.5.1 The UoA includes: cell and molecular physiology and pharmacology; neuroscience; systems anatomy, physiology and pharmacology; cell and developmental biology.

UoA Boundaries

3.5.2 The Panel expects to receive submissions from all areas of pre-clinical studies, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology as indicated in the UoA descriptor. It expects that submitted work will deal with all levels of organisation ranging from the molecular to intact organisms.

3.5.3 Much of the work will deal with mammalian systems but the Panel recognises that submissions are also likely to include work on non-mammalian systems, particularly where the primary focus is the elucidation of molecular or cellular mechanisms. Work dealing primarily with plant or microbial structure or function, or work of a purely comparative nature, should normally be submitted to the Biological Sciences Panel (UoA 14), similarly work in which the primary focus is clinical should normally be submitted to UoAs 1-3, and historical work to the History Panel (UoA 59).

3.5.4 Pedagogic work that falls within the expertise of the Panel will be considered by the Panel. Such work will be cross referred to the Education Panel (UoA 68) or referred to specialist advisers as appropriate.

3.5.5 The Panel expects to receive a significant amount of interdisciplinary research that falls within the UoAs covered by the Panel.

3.5.6 Work spanning boundaries between UoAs 5-8 will be dealt with by panel members. Where a submission includes work spanning boundaries with other UoAs and is not covered within the expertise of panel members, advice will be sought from another relevant panel or specialist advisers.


3.5.7 The Panel will assess submissions in each of the UoAs, through four sub-panels (Pre-clinical, Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology), drawn exclusively from within its membership. There will be cross-representation on each sub-panel.

3.5.8 When there are areas within submissions that are not covered by to the expertise of the panel members, specialist advice will be sought.

Interdisciplinary Research

3.5.9 Where interdisciplinary research falls within the key subject areas of UoAs 5-8, it will be assessed by the Panel. For any areas not fully covered by the Panel, expertise will be sought by referring material to other appropriate panels or specialist advisers.

Joint Submissions

3.5.10 Where joint submissions are received, the Panel will consider the submissions together.

Treatment of Evidence

3.5.11 Submissions will be judged in the first instance, on the basis of the quality of research output. The assessment will then be refined by taking account of:

  1. Evidence of esteem by funding bodies employing rigorous peer review processes, or assessment mechanisms of comparable rigour.
  2. The level of research activity, indicated by the number of research assistants, students, studentships, and research degrees awarded.
  3. Other factors, given in RA 5 & 6 which demonstrate the vitality and extent of research within the submission including the quality and potential of research active staff.

3.5.12 The Panel will use a common approach in dealing with submissions in each of UoAs 5 to 8.

Research Output (RA2)

3.5.13 The Panel expects that the majority of the research outputs submitted will be in the form of papers describing original research findings published in peer reviewed journals. There is no restriction on other outputs that can be submitted, and other outputs, as defined by RAE 2/99 - 'Guidance on Submissions', will be judged on their merits. Equal recognition will be given to all forms of research whether basic or applied.

3.5.14 All panel members will review all submissions in each of UoAs 5-8, and collectively will examine in detail, a minimum of 25% of the research outputs cited in all submissions.

3.5.15 The outputs to be reviewed in detail will be selected from across the full range in each submission, taking care to include different forms of outputs and the work of different areas that may be included in the submission.

3.5.16 In all outputs the Panel will look for evidence of scientific excellence, novelty, technical innovation, potential applicability and significant addition to knowledge and to the conceptual framework of the field. The Panel will assess the quality of research outputs giving weight to work that has undergone rigorous peer review or a comparable editorial or assessment process. The Panel will not use a bibliometric analysis but, where appropriate, will be guided by their informed views on the editorial and refereeing standards of journals.

3.5.17 Four outputs per member of research active staff will normally be expected. However submissions that include new or younger research active staff with fewer outputs, will not necessarily be disadvantaged. Similarly the contribution of staff who have taken career breaks or have been seconded to other activities and who submit fewer than four outputs will be considered on its merits. The Panel will base its judgement on the quality of the outputs that are submitted and information provided in RA 5 and 6 providing evidence of a vibrant and supportive research culture and potential for future development.

3.5.18 Where a peer review process, or similar, is not evident, outputs will not necessarily be assumed to be of a lower quality. For such outputs, the Panel will apply principles similar to those employed in the peer review process to form a view of their quality.

3.5.19 The Panel expects many outputs will be co-authored and will not use the order of authorship as a criterion; the Panel will, however, seek evidence in submissions of the relative contributions of different authors to co-authored outputs.

3.5.20 Outputs included more than once in a particular submission will be considered in the context of other evidence of the breadth and depth of research activity in the submission.

Students and Studentships (RA3)

3.5.21 The distribution of research students amongst research active staff and the average number of research students per research active member of staff submitted and of higher degrees awarded, will be used as indicators of research vitality.

3.5.22 The Panel will rate more highly studentships awarded by bodies that apply peer review or a comparable process.

3.5.23 All studentships, irrespective of funding source, will be evaluated in terms of the suitability of the research and training environment.

Research Assistants

3.5.24 The distribution of research assistants amongst research active staff and the average number of research assistants per research active member of staff submitted, will be used as one of the indicators of research vitality.

3.5.25 Postdoctoral workers will count more highly than graduate research assistants.

External Income (RA4)

3.5.26 External research income will be considered as an average for each member of research active staff submitted and will be used as one of the indicators of esteem.

3.5.27 The Panel will rate more highly external income generated competitively from bodies that apply rigorous peer review or a comparable process and will examine the profile of all externally generated income in relation to the research strategies and priorities stated in RA5.

Textual Commentary


3.5.28 The research organisation and future plans stated in RA5 and RA6 will be tested against the information provided in the rest of the submission. The Panel will look for additional evidence of research vitality and invite submissions to include an element of self assessment. The Panel do not wish to prescribe the structure of the submission in RA5 but would wish the following to be considered:

Research Structure and Strategy

3.5.29 The major recent achievements and the main objectives over the next five years should be defined. The Panel will consider equally individuals working independently or in groups. Where research groups are identified the Panel will look for evidence of the enhancement of research quality or potential.

3.5.30 Changes in research profile or structure since 1996 should be identified, and the achievement of, or substantial divergence from, stated plans in RA5 in 1996 should be noted.

3.5.31 Programme grants, major strategic awards (e.g. JIF, JREI and Centre awards) and other major forms of long term external support including career development awards and senior fellowships, should be identified against groups or individuals, as appropriate.

3.5.32 Other UoAs (outside UoAs 5-8) to which closely related or collaborative research has been submitted should be identified, together with information on difficulties of fit between departmental or group structures and the UoA framework.

3.5.33 Within the department as a whole, policies for developing and managing research should be outlined. Distinctive features of the infrastructural support for research should be described, and any specific arrangements for supporting interdisciplinary or collaborative research should be identified.

3.5.34 Major collaborations within the institution and externally, including industry, should be identified where there is tangible evidence of success. Information should be provided on research units embedded within the UoA that are supported by private or public funds, including Research Councils, where these contribute to the vitality of the research environment. Submissions should make clear whether the financial support for embedded units is direct to the unit or through the institution.

3.5.35 The Panel will not, in general, consider the size of a submission to be a determinant of research quality or potential. Where, however, the Panel considers that progress in research areas identified in RA5 depends on a critical mass and/or infrastructure the volume and range of the submission will be taken into account together with evidence of successful collaborations externally or internally with other UoAs.

Staffing Policy

3.5.36 The Panel would welcome comments on the research of young Category A staff and the mechanisms in place to foster their development.

3.5.37 Where appropriate, the Panel expect the role and contribution of category A* staff who have joined the department to be described.

3.5.38 The Panel also invite comments on the departure of staff in categories A*, B and D. The submission may also include information on research assistants who have moved into academic/industrial positions during the RAE period.


Evidence of Esteem

3.5.39 Evidence in support of excellence at an international and, if appropriate, at a national level, should be explicitly given. The Panel will wish to see indicators of peer esteem relating to the research activities of staff submitted over the review period. These might include:

  1. Delivery of invited prestigious lectures nationally or internationally,
  2. Membership of editorial boards, grants committees of major funding bodies, or the committees of national or international academic bodies,
  3. Elections to national academies,
  4. Organisation of international meetings,
  5. Other medals, honours, prizes, awards or Fellowships of prestigious organisations.

    Individual Staff Circumstances

    3.5.40 The Panel also invites additional comments on individual staff circumstances, which may have significantly affected their contribution to research, such as sick leave, career breaks or secondment to non-research activities.

    Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

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

    Working Methods

    3.5.42 The Panel will use a quantitative approach to information on studentships, research assistantships, degrees awarded and external research income. In each case, the indicators will be expressed per 'A/A*' or 'A/A*' and 'C' member of research active staff submitted.

    3.5.43 Separate sub-panels will meet to consider submissions in the Pre-clinical, Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology UoAs. Each submission received by the Panel will be assigned to at least two panel members within the relevant sub-panel who will produce an initial assessment of the complete submission. In preparing these assessments, advice will be sought from other panel members with specific expertise relevant to particular submissions, other assessment panels, or external advisers when appropriate. In order to ensure consistent and equitable treatment of all submissions, there will be cross representation on each of the sub-panels. The assignment of submissions to designated panel members will be approximately equal, bearing in mind the relevant expertise of different panel members.

    3.5.44 At sub-panel meetings, the designated panel members will introduce each submission. Following evaluation of the outputs in RA2, individually and collectively, and examination of the evidence for research vitality and esteem from other indicators, an initial rating for the entire submission will be made and used to suggest a rank order. At a subsequent meeting of the full Panel, the initial rankings of all submissions will be examined, reviewed and compared against the criteria for national and international excellence. Taking into account all the evidence available, the full Panel will be responsible for deciding the final gradings. The Panel will make decisions by consensus. In the event that a consensus cannot be achieved, the Panel will vote openly and decisions will be taken by a simple majority.

    3.5.45 The Panel will use as a guide to the identification of international excellence of outputs, its judgement of the standard of work published in internationally recognised quality journals in the field. The Panel expects that such work will have made a significant contribution to knowledge. Other outputs submitted will be matched to this standard as will information presented elsewhere in the submission. It will consider research that is worthwhile, timely and technically sound, but nevertheless of a lower standard, to be of national excellence. Outputs that do not reach the latter standard will be considered sub-national.

    3.5.46 As an aid to the evaluation of internationally excellent research, the Panel will submit to non-UK based experts, a representative sample of outputs, including samples from all submissions rated 5 and 5*,and some rated 4.

    Last updated 30 March 2000

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