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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.42 French, UoA 51

UoA Descriptor

3.42.1 The Panel will take a broad view of what constitutes French studies. The unit of assessment will include Medieval Literature and Occitan; Early Modern Literature (16th -17th Century); 18th Century Literature; 19th Century Literature; 20th Century Literature; Cultural Studies (including Film and Media Studies); Thought and Philosophy; Language Studies; Pedagogic Research; Political, Social and Historical Studies; Francophone and postcolonial studies; Gender Studies; Literary Theory; Comparative Literature; and Literature in Relation to the Other Arts. It is recognised that submissions may legitimately include areas of research which are eligible for submission to other units of assessment.

UoA Boundaries

3.42.2 It is envisaged that the Panel will have sufficient breadth of expertise to enable it to consider a significant proportion of submissions which cross the boundaries of other units of assessment. In instances where the Panel considers that it does not have such expertise, it will refer the item of research to the relevant anel.


3.42.3 It is not expected that it will be necessary to convene a sub-panel to consider any particular area of research within the unit of assessment.

3.42.4 Where an item of research requires linguistic expertise outwith the competence of the French Panel and other panels, for example in the case of Modern Occitan, specialist advice will be sought.

Interdisciplinary Research

3.42.5 The Panel is of the view that French is in itself a subject characterised by a high level of interdisciplinarity. As such, it is expected that the Panel will contain sufficient expertise to consider a significant proportion of interdisciplinary research. In those instances where the Panel does not have the requisite expertise, the research in question will be referred to the relevant panel.

Joint Submissions

3.42.6 Joint submissions will be considered in the same way as other submissions to the unit of assessment.

Treatment of Evidence

3.42.7 An integrated approach will be taken to the consideration of each submission, with due attention paid to all aspects.

3.42.8 However, the Panel recognises cited outputs as the primary indicator of research quality and will base its assessment of submissions primarily on its professionally informed judgement of the quality of output of each individual researcher. All forms of output will be assessed on equal terms. The Panel will use all other elements of the submission as evidence of the context and culture within which the research is conducted. The textual commentary contained in RA5 and RA6 will be regarded as particularly significant in informing the Panel's understanding of the research context and ongoing research activity.

3.42.9 The Panel takes the view that whilst collaborative research is an important indicator of an active research culture, the work produced by such research will not be regarded as intrinsically superior. The quality of research cited for each individual researcher will be assessed.

Research Output (RA2)

3.42.10 Research in the printed, electronic or recorded form will be accepted. The principal categories within which it is envisaged that works will be cited are listed below. The Panel stresses that materials submitted under the headings of bibliographies, creative writing, performance, short works, teaching materials and translations must clearly show how they embody research as defined for the RAE by providing a succinct statement of no more than 300 words in the 'Other relevant details' field of RA2. No ranking or weighting should be inferred from the order in which categories are listed.

  1. Academic books - including:
    1. co-authored works
    2. edited special issues of journals or collections of essays with research input on the part of the editor
    3. scholarly editions
    4. single-authored works
  2. Articles in academic journals
  3. Bibliography (to the extent that it embodies research)
  4. Chapters in academic books - including:
    1. contributions to conference proceedings
    2. contributions to Festschrifts
    3. essays in collections
  5. Creative Writing
  6. Performance (to the extent that it embodies research).
  7. Short works (to the extent that they embody research) - including:
    1. dictionary entries
    2. encyclopedia articles
    3. états-présents
    4. pamphlets
    5. published lectures
    6. review articles
  8. Teaching materials (to the extent that they embody research) - including:
    1. computer assisted language learning (CALL) material
    2. language materials
    3. readers
    4. resource books
    5. student guides
    6. text books
  9. Translations (to the extent that they embody scholarship and research).

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

3.42.12 The Panel collectively will examine in detail at least 75% of the works of each submission, and will review the remainder.

3.42.13 When considering which works to examine in detail, the Panel will be guided by the following criteria:

  1. Which are the most substantial works in the submission?
  2. Which works have not already undergone a rigorous review and refereeing process?

3.42.14 The Panel will treat each submission in the same manner when reviewing particular works in detail.

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

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

Research Students and Research Studentships (RA3)

3.42.16 Quantitative information in RA3 and RA4 will be viewed by the Panel as contributing to the qualitative assessment. Credit will above all be given to submissions showing evidence of the active development and promotion of postgraduate studies. The Panel also recognises the highly competitive nature of studentships such as those awarded by the Humanities Research Board (the HRB), the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS), the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment for Northern Ireland, the Overseas Research Studentship (ORS) scheme and the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), and will give credit accordingly.

External Research Income (RA4)

3.42.17 The Panel is aware of the scarcity of external funding for research in the humanities. Credit will be given for the generation of research income where this constitutes per se an indication of quality, but the lack of such income will not be considered a negative factor.

Information Requirements for RA5 and RA6

3.42.18 Institutions should address each of the following requirements when completing RA5 and RA6.


Research Structure and Environment

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

3.42.20 Explain the mechanisms and practices for promoting research and sustaining and developing a vigorous and productive research culture.

3.42.21 Describe the nature and quality of the research infrastructure, including facilities and support for research students.

3.42.22 Describe any arrangements which are in place for supporting interdisciplinary or collaborative research.

3.42.23 Describe any research groups, who belongs to them, how they operate and their main achievements.

Staffing Policy

3.42.24 Describe the arrangements for the development of the research work of the staff. The Panel notes that the quality of a particular work cited may compensate for the absence of other works. However, the Panel may conclude that a lack of research depth in a department is indicated when a significant number of established active researchers cite fewer than four works each.

3.42.25 The Panel will not penalise institutions which have appointed new members of staff without an established research track record, especially when there is evidence of an effective policy of developing research. 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.

3.42.26 Where appropriate, a) explain how staff recruited in the year preceding the census date are contributing to the coherent development of the research strategy which has been followed since the last RAE and b) outline any contribution to research activities of staff not returned as research active.

3.42.27 Where appropriate, comment 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.

Additional Observations

3.42.28 Submitting HEIs should ensure that sufficient explanation is given about the research content of works submitted under RA2. In particular, HEIs are requested to note that the onus is upon the submitting HEI to:

  1. identify the research content of outputs such as editorial activity, translations and textbooks; and
  2. to specify the extent of an individual's contribution in the case of collaborative research

in the 'Other relevant details' field on RA2. HEIs are also invited to draw attention in RA5 to substantial bodies of work not listed elsewhere in the submission.

Research Strategy

3.42.29 Provide a statement about the main objectives and activities in research over the next five years. The Panel's attention should be drawn to ongoing research work that is not producing immediate visible outcomes.

3.42.30 Comment on the progress of research plans submitted in the 1996 RAE.

Self Assessment

3.42.31 Provide a self-assessment of performance in relation to the above information requirements. The self-assessment should take the form of an overview of research performance, and should not be longer than 200 words. Credit will be given for self-critical and constructive self-assessments.


Evidence of Esteem

3.42.32 Indicators of peer esteem which the Panel will regard highly include inter alia:

  1. Editorship of journals and monograph series
  2. Election to learned societies
  3. Membership of relevant national and international committees or organisations
  4. Invited papers at national and international conferences, especially keynote papers
  5. Organisation of national and international conferences
  6. Invited lectures at other HEIs
  7. External funding
  8. Visiting posts
  9. Number of PhD external examiner appointments
  10. National and international honours
  11. Research-based consultancies, eg refereeing for journals and publishers

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.42.33 Where individual circumstances have significantly affected the contribution of staff to the submission, or where fewer than four publications are cited for an individual researcher, institutions are invited to state on RA5 whether any of the following applies:

  1. New/young researcher: in a first full-time academic post, not cited on any previous RAE
  2. Career change: recruited from outside the academic world, and entered in the RAE for the first time;
  3. Change of focus; employed by the department for some years, but previously in a predominately administrative or teaching role, and entered in the RAE for the first time;
  4. Long term project: established researcher participating in time-limited projects funded by the HE funding bodies, eg TLTP, with a consequently reduced research output. Specific information is required on these projects;
  5. Career breaks, maternity leave, periods of sick leave.

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

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

Working Methods

3.42.35 The Panel will seek to ensure the consistent and equitable treatment of all submissions.

3.42.36 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, including scholars in other disciplines, and its probable impact upon them. The key criterion will be evidence of quality of research according to the criteria listed under 3.42.15. Credit will not be given simply in relation to the extent of an individual's international exposure.

3.42.37 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, including scholars in other disciplines, and its probable impact upon them. Individuals whose research fails to satisfy the criteria will be judged as being below the threshold of national excellence.

3.42.38 Each member of the Panel will be responsible for collating information for a certain number of submissions, and referring the items in RA2 to the relevant panel specialist. Submissions will then be presented to the whole panel for discussion. Panel members will play no part in judging the quality of submission from an institution with which they have a material connection, and will withdraw from discussion of such an institution where it is appropriate to do so.

3.42.39 The Panel will consult a group of up to five non-UK based experts to verify its identification of international excellence. Each individual will be sent all submissions with provisional ratings of 5 and 5*, together with the criteria statement, and a summary of the rationale for the Panel's decision. A sample of 4 ratings will also be passed on for comment.

3.42.40 After all information has been received and collated, every submission will be scrutinised by the whole panel for a second time. Decisions will be made on the basis of consensus where possible, or otherwise on the basis of a two-thirds majority vote.

Last updated 19 April 2000

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