The morning started with promise, lunch was good (we walked over to the kebab house and stuffed our faces on meat and dips) but much of the afternoon was wasted on discussing the Government's Research Quality Framework.
For those of you who are not familiar with this ... thing ... it began with Brendan Nelson trying to constrain academic research to those areas that would produce immediate benefits to 'end-users' (a euphemism for industry). He established the Expert Advisory Group, which produced a model for assessing quality and impact. Then Nelson went to the Armed Forces ('I see no ships'). His successor, Julie Bishop, has now peed all over the RQF tree. So far, she has established a new group to 'take forward the next phase'. This is the Development Advisory Group (that's right, the acronym is DAG).
(In her favour, at least Bishop doesn't believe that Intelligent Design has a place in science classes. Nelson did. No doubt he still does. I couldn't imagine he said that simply to get in the Fundies' good books.)
The RQF measures quality and impact of research. Impact is an interesting concept. Having agreed that pure and applied research are equally valid (Section 2.2. of the Final Advice), the EAG then set up a model that complete ignores it. That's right. If you do pure research (or if your research isn't turned into something 'useful' within six years) you're up shit creek.
Furthermore, each research group is expected to produce a report (of no more than ten pages) explaining how the past six years' research has benefited the end-user community. Then the group has to supply the names and contact details of those beneficiaries so they can be called on as referees.
No, I'm not making that last bit up.
Here's the break down.
A+ Research has produced transformational benefits on a large scale, resulting in sustained social, economic, environmental and/or cultural outcomes.
A Research has produced benefits resulting in significant improvements in a defined social, economic, environmental and/or cultural context
B Research has generated new policies, products, processes or paradigms, resulting in demonstrated uptake by the relevant end-user community
C Identifiable beneficial engagement with end-users recognising the importance of the research for a defined social, economic, environmental and/or cultural issue.
D Research has a negligible social, economic, environmental and/or cultural benefit for the end-user community and/or end-users have not engaged with the research within a reasonable timeframe.
Not assessed Research is too early to have made an impact or, due to its intrinsic nature, is not expected to result in straightforward end-user benefits.
I'll have to finish this before I have my break down.