Education Letter: The real problem with RAE

Opinions on girls and science, literacy and numeracy tests, Chris Woodhead, the role of research, and falling academic standards

AS AN historian I am a firm believer in research - an engagement with original sources - wherever possible. However there is research and research. The Research Assessment Exercise is not really about stimulating worthwhile research, it is simply a crude attempt at a productivity measurement.

What Lucy Hodges' article on the RAE (Education, 28 January) rather skates over is the adverse impact it is having on genuine research. As the organiser of a regular socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in London I aim, of course, for maximum academic rigour. At the same time, I also want to encourage non-professional academics to participate since, particularly in the field of labour history, they have an enormous amount to contribute from their own experiences and researches.

I find myself in a constant struggle to retain the integrity of such a seminar against the demand that papers given must always be able to be refereed and published as soon as possible. I am very much in favour of publication, and no slouch at it myself. I am also willing to allow that those who rarely or never publish may also have an enormous amount of interest to contribute.

KEITH FLETT

Convenor,

London Socialist Historians Group

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