In preparation for REF 2021 I was asked to submit an Impact Case Study for evaluation at College.
The project was selected by our department – the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and the College as one of two to go forward as an ICS for the REF.
The REF findings are now out and this case (though necessarily redacted) is now available.
The case concerns some outcomes of my postdoc on risk and the film business, which is the subject of my new book (unfortunately published too late for REF) and details of content are available here.
The work was evaluated as 3* – Internationally Excellent and submitted under Unit of assessment 34: Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management.
The general, panel level commentary documentation reviewing submissions for that Unit of Assessment noted about its submissions that “innovative research had a range of positive economic impacts, for example, improving resilience of media and creative companies”. That certainly was an aspect of my work on managing risk, and perhaps that shines through in the case and was recognised.
Other Units of Assessment also seemed to indicate potentially viable locations for my submission, with the general panel comments interpretable as areas where perhaps the ICS could have contributed relevant knowledge:
E.g. 33 Film and screen studies: “Engagements with platforms for exhibiting and distributing work – from festivals to streaming platforms – and their impacts on the production and reception of both film and television products were also noted, reflecting new modes of documenting and understanding the shifting audiovisual landscape.”
E.g. 17 Business and management studies: “Qualitative studies were less common, and future qualitative efforts applying strong methodological rigour to understand the processes of innovation should be encouraged, especially in less understood domains of innovation, such as service innovation, experience innovation, how creative activities link to innovation.”
It was to Business and management studies that much of my work as an ESRC PhD student at the Institute for Capitalising on Creativity was submitted in REF 2014 – Capitalising on Creativity in the film and screen industry.
That ICS either achieved a 4* World Leading designation (2/3rd probability) or 3* Internationally Excellent designation (1/3rd probability).
Though again, I also worked on projects as part of that PhD (which involved a Research Associate position at Scottish Screen with projects detailed in this blog) that were submitted in other Units of Assessment too.
Work focussed on impacts of documentaries that I was part of when working with Scottish Screen (Creative Scotland) and the Scottish Documentary Institute at the University of Edinburgh (see my Chapter – #18 in the CineCoSA book) formed part of ICS submissions in the Art and Design Unit of Assessment . Those submissions being a roughly 50/50 chance of 4 or 3 star.
Another film business piece (ch4 in this digital disruption collection) I did at the same time found its way into yet another Unit – on Music, Drama and Performing Arts.
So, it seems very hard to see REF as a steady gauge for an individual’s work, or to decipher appropriate disciplinary homes.
REF and other rankings, their processes and uses, are so obviously massively flawed and problematic on the one hand, but seemingly matter a great deal on the other, that engagement with the practice and topic is incredibly frustrating.
Certainly, it was nice to be selected to submit my work, but it was hugely costly in terms of time and opportunity, without much clear benefit, or clear routes to potential benefit.
I think as broad barometers, and only as part of a wider set of evaluations REF might be helpful.
For instance, the Philosophy Department at the University of St Andrews has consistently done brilliantly across RAE and REFs but most importantly to me, the teaching was utterly fantastic. It was engaging and inspiring and gave me a wonderful education. Often you hear of oppressive research cultures detrimental to staff and students in the pursuit of metrics and rankings. St Andrews managed to excel across the board, and you can’t judge that just from metrics, personal experience or testimony needs to be a core part of any evaluation of an academic environment.
On a sombre note several wonderful academics from the department passed last year.
Professor Broadie, Professor Clark, and Professor Hawley all made my life so much better through their teaching. I am so very sad for their loss. I will never forget their brilliance and their kindness.