My (unpublished) Letter to the Guardian, July 28th, 2015
James Wilsdon writes “In defence of the REF” (Guardian, July 27th (2015)), as opposed to the IEA’s call for quality-related funding of scientific and other research. But neither scheme takes account the known fact that most of the major advances in science have come from research that originally seemed to have nothing to do with the eventual application (see, for example, Sir John Cadogan’s recent report http://learnedsocietywales.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Curiosity-driven%20Blue%20Sky%20Research%20WEB%20LSW.pdf).
As I have argued recently on Australian television, the answer is to fund diverse networks of science, rather than just individual projects (http://lenfisherscience.com/tv-interview-we-need-to-fund-diverse-networks-of-science/). Only in this way will science be persuaded to yield up its true benefits.
REF? QR? A plague on both their houses.
University of Bristol
UPDATE 25.6.2017 I wish now to add the appalling TEF teaching ratings to the targets for this rant. As pointed out by Phil_Baty on Twitter “Bronze TEF ratings indicate universities meet “rigorous national quality requirements”. The headlines, however say “third rate.” As pointed out by Dorothy Bishop, FRS (@deevybee) “It was BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS that this would happen; the media love to bash universities & TEF gives perfect excuse” Of course we need good teaching, but the lesson already is that TEF is the worst way to ensure it.