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Does anyone still care about REF2014? Apart from agonizing about what it will mean in the new assignments of quality-related funding for institutions, obviously.

Among the various surprising things I have had to do this term (as in “surprise! You have to do this”) was to participate in the Winter graduation ceremony: reading out the names of graduands. It was fun; the tiniest bit stressful, because I hadn’t ever managed to attend a ceremony – but since everyone was there to celebrate, most of the pressure was off; I think I managed to doff my hat at the required times and not to trip over my gown while processing. Part of the ceremony is a valedictory speech from the Warden (vice-Chancellor equivalent), and it was perhaps inevitable that part of that was a section congratulating our soon-to-be alumni on belonging to an institution with high-quality research, or possibly “research intensity”.

That reminded me to take another look at the contextual data published by the Higher Education Statistics Authority; part of the “research intensity” calculation involves an estimate of the number of staff who were eligible to participate in the REF. It is only an estimate, not for any fundamental reason but because the employment data and the research submissions were collected by two different agencies; the data quality is not great, resulting probably in about equal measure from database schema mismatches (working out which REF2014 “Unit of Assessment” a given member of departmental staff belongs to) and human error. The good news is that at least the human error can be corrected later; there are now four Universities who have submitted corrected employment numbers to HESA, subtracting off a large number of research assistants (fixed-term contract researchers) from their list of REF-eligible staff – which naturally tends to bump up their measured research intensity.

New corrections mean new spreadsheets, new slightly-different data layouts, and new ingestion code; I suffer so you don’t have to. I’ve made a new version of my ref2014 R package containing the REF2014 results and contextual data; I’ve also put the source of the package up on github in case anyone wants to criticize (or learn from, I guess) my packaging.