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For the purpose of the 2008 RAE each academic discipline was assigned to one of 67 units of assessment (UOAs). Work submitted to the exercise was assessed by experts, drawn from HEIs and the wider research community. There was a two-tier panel system: 67 sub-panels of experts, one for each UOA, worked under the guidance of 15 main panels. Each main panel included broadly cognate disciplines whose subjects had similar approaches to research. This system provided a strategic overview of the work of the sub-panels and a more consistent approach both to setting criteria and to the assessment of work in related fields.
Main panels were made up of a chair, the chairs of each of the sub-panels within the main panel area, and a number of international and additional members. The international membership of the main panels ensured that international standards were maintained consistently across the exercise. Each sub-panel had a chair and on average about 15 other members, who had expertise that covers the full range of research in that subject area.
The main panels were responsible for:
- reviewing and endorsing the criteria and working methods to be used by the sub-panels
- deciding on the quality profile to be awarded to each submission
- communication and joint working with the other main panels.
The sub-panels are responsible for:
- preparing draft statements of relevant criteria and working methods
- undertaking the detailed assessment of submissions from HEIs
- making recommendations to main panels on the quality profiles to be awarded for each submission.
Panel members were nominated by subject associations and other stakeholder organisations, including users of research. They were appointed by the UK funding bodies. There were over 1,000 panel members. They were chosen for their standing in the academic and wider research community, their extensive research experience, and their understanding of the needs of research users and commissioners of research from both the public and commercial sectors.