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The RAE wars

2008 is crunch time for British academics, as the first research assessment exercise (RAE) in seven years gets under way. Since 1986, the RAE has been one of academia’s most crucial measures. This year, it will allocate £1.5bn—a fifth of all governmental higher education funding—to institutions based on a peer-reviewed assessment of research. Things are soon to change, however. By 2006, the system had become so Byzantine and unpopular that the treasury announced a move to a “metrics-based” system. After 2008, it declared, research should be assessed by measurable outcomes—such as how many citations a paper receives—rather…

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