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Research Assessment Exercise 1999 Summary of Major Changes made to the draft Guidance Notes

  1. Introduction

    Since the Consultation Document and the first draft Guidance Notes were issued in July 1998, the University Grants Committee (UGC) has received nearly 100 submissions from individuals, groups, units/departments from the UGC-funded institutions, and other academic and non-academic organisations. The UGC has considered all the comments received and has, after very careful consideration, proposed further amendments to the draft Guidance Notes for RAE 1999. This summary highlights the major areas of revisions and encloses the revised draft Guidance Notes for reference. The revised draft Guidance Notes will be considered further by the UGC at its January 1999 meeting for final approval. This document should be read by senior management and all academic staff of the UGC-funded institutions.

  2. Purpose of the RAE

    The revised draft Guidance Notes now carry certain important paragraphs transferred from the Consultation Document, which explain more fully the purpose and background of the RAE.

  3. Institution/Cost Centre/Individuals

    The UGC wishes to emphasize that the RAE is to assess institution's research output by cost centre, not individual. The term 'active researcher' or the description that staff member X has been assessed to be 'research active' should no longer be used. To reinforce the message, it has now been stated in paragraph 15 of the revised draft Guidance Notes that "There is no expectation by the UGC that all academic staff should contribute to the institution's research index".

  4. Institution's Research Strategy Statement

    Paragraph 13 of the revised draft Guidance Notes describes the purpose and the content expected of the Research Strategy Statement (RSS). A template for the RSS can be found in Appendix B to the revised draft Guidance Notes.

  5. Cost Centres

    As in RAE 1996, institutions are asked to map their departments and research units onto common list of 'Cost Centre' the mapping of which should be the same as that used in the UGC's Common Data Collection Format (CDCF) returns. The UGC has received various comments about the "uniqueness" of certain academic departments/units and the perceived problems of them being assessed together with those of other institutions which have been mapped onto the same cost centre. The UGC wishes to stress that the RAE is not the right forum to discuss why certain academic departments/units have been mapped onto particular cost centres, the reasons for which are historical and, to a large extent, institution's own choice. However, as there will be more RAE panels in 1999 than in RAE 1996, it may be possible for some cost centres to be grouped under a different or new panel (paragraph 9 below of this summary and paragraph 46 of the revised draft Guidance Notes are also relevant).

  6. What to submit

    Paragraph 30 of the revised draft Guidance Notes suggests that each cost centre should convene a meeting for staff who are considering a submission to discuss the four scholarly categories in relation to the cost centre's role and mission derived from that of the institution. However, the meeting should only discuss possible submissions in general terms, and that ultimately, the individuals should decide for themselves what specific items to submit, and under which category.

  7. Labelling of submitted items

    Paragraph 42 of the revised draft Guidance Notes requires that each submitted item should be labelled as 'D', 'I', 'A' or 'T' according to the four categories of scholarship of discovery, integration, application and teaching. However, the scoring, and eventually funding, will be based on the work submitted for assessment without regard to the category. The categorisation will help provide the basis for the UGC to consider the research performance of an institution in relation to its role and mission (paragraph 31 of the revised draft Guidance Notes).

  8. Co-authorship

    Many of the comments received described the problem of co-authorship. Paragraph 39 now provides two worked examples to illustrate the principles in assessing co-authored items. However, the RAE panels will have to rely heavily on self declaration by individuals. It is therefore suggested that each cost centre should appoint a co-ordinator to collate individuals' submissions, identify multiple-submission items and ensure that the information required in paragraph 42(c) has been provided with the submissions to enable the panel to deal with co-authored items. It is believed that the meeting proposed in paragraph 30 would also help co-ordinate the within-cost centre co-author problem discussed in paragraph 39.

  9. RAE Panels

    With reference to paragraph 46 of the revised draft Guidance Notes, the UGC is yet to finalise changes to the mapping of existing cost centres to RAE panels. However, it is highly likely that the UGC will double the number of RAE panels. For ease of reference, the groupings of cost centres and a list of the RAE panels in RAE 1996 are shown in Appendix F to the revised draft Guidance Notes.

  10. To give non-traditional research output an accurate and fair assessment, the UGC will ensure that each panel will consist of local and overseas academics in the relevant disciplines and, where appropriate, also professionally qualified people from business, government and the arts. A sub-group with suitable membership will be constituted under each panel to evaluate such items separately, and make recommendation to the full panel (paragraphs 47 and 48).

  11. The UGC is also committed to increasing the objectivity, reliability and transparency of the panel assessment by having more overseas and independent referees, including professional members as appropriate, providing training to the RAE panels before the assessment process begins, and inviting the panels to describe in writing the standards and criteria used, and how these have been applied. The RAE Guidance Notes for Panels, when finalised, will be mounted on the UGC Web for public information (paragraph 58)

  12. Collaboration in research with industry and others

    The Chief Executive's Commission on Innovation & Technology (CIT) recommended in its first report published in September 1998 that the UGC should consider possible changes to be incorporated in the RAE to encourage more collaboration in research with industry and others. To this end, a new paragraph (paragraph 51) has been added to advise that, once the quality threshold in terms of content and rigour in process and methodology has been met by an item that has been submitted for assessment, the RAE panels should give special recognition to those items which have societal (as opposed to local) relevance which has achieved or is likely to achieve 'symbiosis with industry, commerce and government and with local culture and society' (UGC's Review Report on Higher Education in Hong Kong).

  13. Other Modifications to the RAE Guidance Notes

    In the light of comments received in response to the consultation document, the UGC has proposed further modifications to the draft Guidance Notes for RAE 1999. These are summarised as follows:

    1. Period of Assessment

      There was a typographical error in paragraph 26 of the first draft Guidance Notes. The assessment period for RAE 1999 will, as in RAE 1996, be four years rather than three, from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1998.

    2. Definition of Research Output

      A statement has been added to paragraph 33 that research output items satisfying all the four criteria can be submitted for assessment regardless of their funding sources.

    3. New Researchers

      It has been made clearer that new researchers are those who first joined /join the academia (anywhere) within the three-year period from 1 January 1996 (not 1995, cf typographical error above) to 31 December 1998.

    4. Exceptional Item

      To encourage the submission of non-traditional research output items (i.e. categories 'I', 'A' and 'T') for assessment, it has been proposed that individual staff may wish to submit one such item even though this item may not be among the best 5 outputs produced during the period of assessment.

  14. Timetable for RAE 1999

    In order to tie in with the recurrent funding assessment for the triennium 2001-2004, the UGC proposes to conduct the third RAE in 1999. Subject to the conclusion of the consultation process before the end of 1998, it is planned that RAE submissions will be called for in March/April 1999, with the assessment process conducted in the autumn of 1999.

    If there are further comments on the changes set out in this document and the enclosed draft Guidance Notes, they can be sent to the UGC Secretariat by post (to Suite 202, 2/F., Hutchison House, 10 Harcourt Road, Central, Hong Kong), by fax (2845 1596), or by e-mail 'ugc@ugc.edu.hk'. However, given the time constraint, it is not likely that further major changes can be entertained.

UGC Secretariat
1 December 1998