HKU RAE Colloquium: Experiences from Research Assessment Exercises

A session on “Experiences from Research Assessment Exercises” was given by Professor Phil Jones of Cardiff University, UK on June 1, 2018 as part of the HKU RAE Colloquium series. As well as reflecting on past exercises, the talk and the discussion that followed also looked ahead to the coming assessment exercises in Hong Kong (2020) and the UK (2021).

Professor Jones is Chair of Architectural Science in the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University, and he presented his experiences of research assessment exercises (RAEs) from a UK built environment perspective, although many insights and issues raised are pertinent for other disciplines and the HK context. His experience has included as a panel member in both the UK and HK, and as head of School responsible for submitting returns.

After giving a brief history of RAEs in the UK and HK since the 1980s and 1990s respectively, Professor Jones looked more in depth at the UK’s 2014 exercise, renamed as the Research Excellence Framework. The major development in that round was the assessment of research impact through submitted case studies. A review of the REF was conducted in 2016, and the findings are informing the UK’s REF 2021. Hong Kong RAEs tend to follow the UK’s model in some aspects and take on board developments such as the assessment of impact, although HK has been ahead of the UK in requiring the output of all research-active academic staff to be included.

Professor Jones looked at the different elements that are evaluated in RAEs, considering what is assessed and how under the categories of research output, impact and environment. He highlighted the descriptions for the star ratings of output, suggested that innovation is included in impact case studies, and encouraged early drafting, particularly of the environment statements as these are often left until late in the process.

HKU launched the colloquium series in preparation for RAE 2020. A number of prominent overseas scholars from different disciplines have been invited by the Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Andy Hor, to share their ideas and insights based on their experiences of the UK’s REF.