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Section III: Panelsí Criteria and Working Methods

3.56 Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, UoA 65

UoA Descriptor

3.56.1 The UoA includes: Communication Studies; Cultural Studies; Film Studies; and Media Studies. The Panel is open-minded about what might be submitted within the broad fields identified.

UoA Boundaries

3.56.2 Where this Panel judges that a submission spans the boundary between two or more UoAs, such cases will be cross-referred to the most relevant panel or panels. This will involve liaison between panel chairs after a due process of discussion within the Communication, Cultural and Media Studies Panel.

3.56.3 The Panel is conscious that institutions often make submissions on the basis of departmental structures and that there is not necessarily a perfect fit between these and this UoA. The Panel will refer such submissions to other panels or specialist advisers wherever appropriate to do so.

3.56.4 In all cases of referral, the criteria set by the Communication, Cultural and Media Studies Panel will be used to assess submissions and the final judgement will rest with this Panel as the referring panel.

Sub-panels and Specialist Advice

3.56.5 There will be one sub-panel which will advise the Panel on the quality of practice-based cited works within submissions. To ensure consistency of judgement, this Sub-Panel will be chaired by the Chair of the Panel who will be joined by an appropriate member or members of the panel, together with other external members. The Sub-Panel will have an advisory role and will deal solely with the works on which it has been consulted. All rating decisions will be made collectively by the Panel.

3.56.6 Wherever required, additional advice will be sought from specialist advisers of high repute, and this will be taken into account by the Panel in its deliberations. Final judgement will rest with the Communication, Cultural and Media Studies Panel.

3.56.7 To verify its own judgement, the Panel will seek the views of appropriate non-UK based experts on departments which have been given a preliminary rating of 5 or 5*. This advice will be sought towards the end of the process. Final judgement will rest with the Communication, Cultural and Media Studies Panel.

Joint Submissions

3.56.8 The Panel will test the credibility of joint submissions through the commentary in RA5 and RA6, and where relevant will examine 1996 submissions to establish the prior context of each separate component. In all other respects, joint submissions will be assessed on the same basis as single submissions.

Interdisciplinary Research

3.56.9 Where they judge this to be important for the purposes of assessment, departments will be expected to draw the attention of the Panel to their interdisciplinary research in RA5. Where the Panel does not have the requisite expertise, the research in question will be referred as appropriate to other panels. Again, final decisions on grades will rest with the Communication , Cultural and Media Studies Panel and will be reached against its criteria.

Treatment of Evidence

3.56.10 The quality of the submissions will be judged in the light of the following criteria in order of priority:

  1. the quality of the cited works;
  2. the quality of the research context and culture, as indicated by the range, depth and vitality of current research activities, evidence of strategic planning for research, and the prospects for development of the department;


  1. evidence of esteem by external bodies as indicated by research income from bodies such as the Research Councils or the Arts & Humanities Research Board (AHRB), the British Academy, creative and cultural industries, charitable trusts, statutory bodies or their equivalent, or other forms of support conducive to high quality research; evidence of the views of research users where appropriate; and the number of research students and the success rate of research degree completions.

3.56.11 In considering the research vitality of the department, the Panel will have regard, among other things, to seminar programmes, visiting academics, general postgraduate activity, the ability to attract external support for its activities, presentation of work at other institutions and conferences, and the opportunities available for individuals to experience a culture of inquiry and debate in the fields concerned.

3.56.12 Research judged by the Panel to be of international standards of excellence will be at least of a quality comparable with research at the forefront of UK national work on the topic and thereby comparable with the best work internationally. Consideration will be given to the originality, impact, depth, range, accuracy and clarity of the work. Originality may take the form of presenting new material or data and/or in rethinking interpretations or approaches. Internationally excellent work will be outstanding in respect of many of these qualities.

3.56.13 Research judged by the Panel to be of a national standard of excellence will include highly competent work within existing paradigms which does not necessarily alter interpretations or approaches, but which adds detail to existing knowledge.

3.56.14 The Panel will not equate international excellence with work on international themes; nor will it equate work on local or national themes with national excellence.

3.56.15 Final judgement will rest upon evaluation of the entire submission, all sections of which are deemed to be significant.

Research Outputs (RA2)

3.56.16 So that the Panel shall have the fullest evidence on which to base its judgements, different individuals contributing to a submission should avoid duplicating nominated outputs. However, where different individuals choose to nominate the same output among their cited works, they may comment on the reasons for this in RA6.

3.56.17 To be judged as meeting national or international levels of excellence in cited works, an individual does not need to be the first named or senior author of all cited works. However the Panel will look for evidence that the researcher has made an independent contribution to the research reported. Where this cannot be stated briefly in the 'Other relevant details' field on RA2, the roles played in multi-disciplinary or collaborative research may be elaborated in RA6.

3.56.18 For practice-based cited works, additional information is requested. This should be entered in the 'Other relevant details' field on form RA2, and should include a brief statement as described below.

Additional Information Statement

3.56.19 Those submitting practice-based cited works as research may include in the 'Other relevant details' field of RA2, a succinct statement, of 300 words maximum for each item in this category. Because the Panel will use these statements to assist it in evaluating the cited works concerned, submissions should make clear how the work embodies research as defined in the RAE. Statements may, where appropriate, include an indication of the aims and objectives of the work and/or the methodologies and procedures used in producing it. Statements may also draw attention to innovation within the practice that leads to the production of the work and/or within the form or content of the work. Furthermore, statements may also draw attention to the focus of the practice leading to the production of the work and to the institutional, departmental, or disciplinary contexts. Statements may also indicate how the work was disseminated. These statements may not be used to volunteer opinions as to the relative quality of the work.

Assessment of Practice-based Research and Cited Works

3.56.20 The Panel recognises the importance of practice-based research to the research cultures and activities of many departments and individual researchers within the fields covered by the UoA. Works resulting from practice which demonstrably embody research as defined for the RAE will be assessed on an equal basis with other cited works.

Definitions of Practice-Based Research

3.56.21 It is the Panel's view that, provided it meets the definition of research applied in the RAE, any practice in Communication, Cultural and Media Studies may qualify as research when it can be shown to interrogate itself, to be located within a research context and/or to give rise to a critical appraisal.

Criteria for the Assessment of Quality of Cited Works

3.56.22 The Panel has identified two criteria by which all work, regardless of the medium in which it is disseminated, will be assessed:

  1. the extent to knowledge and understanding are increased by the works submitted; and
  2. the impact and influence of the works on peers.

3.56.23 In making judgements the Panel will also be concerned with the considerations listed below. The order in which they are listed does not imply any particular weighting between them. The Panel will take into account the extent to which the cited works:

  1. are intellectually significant and/or innovative in character;
  2. inform the intellectual or policy agenda at a UK and/or international level;
  3. are generally recognised as being of high quality within and beyond the subject community;
  4. have generated new audiences; and
  5. have raised the profile of the UoA among other disciplines and have fostered or developed interdisciplinary research and disseminated research.

Research Students and Studentships (RA3)

3.56.24 While externally funded studentships from bodies such as the Research Councils, the British Academy or the AHRB will be taken as a measure of quality, the Panel recognises their scarcity in the fields covered by the UoA. It will therefore be primarily concerned with the number of research students registered, the number of higher degrees by research awarded (particularly doctorates) and the rate of completions.

External Research Income (RA4)

3.56.25 Research funding received from bodies with rigorous assessment procedures such as Research Councils, the British Academy, the AHRB and comparable organisations, will be seen as an indicator of external esteem. Other funders without such procedures whose support also leads to the production of research will be taken into account and judged equally. However, it is recognised that much research in the UoA's fields is undertaken without any external funding and the Panel will lay emphasis on the quality of cited outputs rather than the extent of any financial input.

Working Methods

3.56.26 The Panel collectively will examine in detail a minimum of one item of cited work for each researcher.

3.56.27 Each submission will be reviewed by all members of the Panel and discussed collectively by the Panel. The Panel will base its assessment on its collective examination of the work cited in the submission.

3.56.28 Each submission will initially be assigned to two panel members who will have primary responsibility for assessing the outputs cited. The two 'lead' members will initiate discussion of the submission of each department, and their judgement will be supplemented by that of all the other panel members, particularly those with specialist expertise in the work under consideration. All panel members will examine as much as possible of the work submitted, particularly in their specialist areas. The eventual assessment will be that of the whole Panel and not solely that of the two 'lead' members.

3.56.29 The Panel will discuss each submission in detail and, where possible, reach a consensus on the rating to be assigned. It is anticipated that submissions will be discussed at several meetings and re-examination of cited works will be carried out if and as necessary. If no consensus can be reached, a rating will be decided by vote. In the event of a split vote, the Chair will have the casting vote.

3.56.30 The rating points will be interpreted as defined in the Notes attached to the Rating Scale and Descriptions in the RAE Guidance on Submissions.

Textual Commentary

3.56.31 The Panel invites institutions to address the following issues in RA5 and RA6. It should be noted that these sections are intended to provide the Panel with additional information to assist it in assessing the submission as a whole. Departments are invited to address only those sections which are considered by them to be relevant to their submissions and which they consider will assist the Panel to make its judgement.


Research Structure and Environment

3.56.32 Only if appropriate, define research groups, say who belongs to them (referring to RA1), describe their prime activities and indicate how they operate and their main achievements. The Panel has no predisposition whatsoever for or against research groups.

3.56.33 List other UoAs to which related work has been submitted and detail any difficulties of fit between departmental structure and the UoA framework.

3.56.34 Explain the mechanisms and practices for promoting research and sustaining and developing an active and vital research culture, including where appropriate the role of media practice in the research culture.

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

3.56.36 Describe any arrangements which are in place for supporting collaborative research (internal or external).

3.56.37 Where appropriate, indicate whether, in the light of the definition of research applied in the RAE, any practice-based works are driven primarily by a research imperative.

3.56.38 Where appropriate, provide relevant information on the degree to which ongoing relationships with industry, government, the academy, commerce, or any other research users have been developed and maintained.

Staffing Policy

3.56.39 Describe the arrangements for the development and support of the research work of staff. Include reference to measures taken to implement the Concordat on the Career Management of Contract Research Staff in Universities and Colleges.

3.56.40 Where appropriate, explain the role and contribution of Category A* staff who have joined the department.

3.56.41 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.

3.56.42 It is recognised that less established members of staff (in particular those beginning academic careers within the research assessment period) may well have cited works which do not equate with what might reasonably be expected of more experienced researchers. The Panel will evaluate the quality of such work in terms of what is reasonably attainable by an active researcher at an early stage of his or her career. Departments which include such staff in their submissions will not be penalised, provided that the Panel is satisfied that the research culture of the department as a whole is demonstrably robust. Credit will be given to those departments which actively support and develop new research staff.

Research Strategy

3.56.43 Provide a statement of the main objectives and activities in research for the next five years. The Panel's attention should be drawn to ongoing research work that has not yet produced visible outcomes.

Self Assessment

3.56.44 Provide a statement of performance in relation to the issues detailed above, referring where appropriate to plans submitted in 1996 and commenting on significant variations from those plans. The Panel will take into account any relevant changes in the balance of interests within a department that have had, or are likely to have, an impact on research strategy. It encourages analytical submissions which will enable it to assess the viability of current and future research strategies.


Evidence of Esteem

3.56.45 List indicators of peer esteem which relate to the staff submitted. These may include: editorships of academic journals; visiting appointments; honorary degrees; keynote addresses or prestigious public lectures; membership of research councils or their equivalent; election to learned societies or their equivalent; appointments as government advisers or other appointments relevant to the field; competitive research fellowships, prizes or other honours; membership of international networks; the attraction of research students from abroad; or translation of research into another language.

3.56.46 In relation to journal editorships in particular, institutions should clearly differentiate editorial contributions embodying a significant research-related component, as opposed to less substantive editorial roles.

Individual Staff Circumstances

3.56.47 Note any circumstances that have significantly affected the contribution of individual staff members to the submission (eg, periods of sick leave, career breaks, engagement on long term projects, etc).

Contributions by Non Research-active Staff

3.56.48 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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