SURE isn’t just for the REF

Just read a rather  bleak article in the Times Higher that describes one academic’s experience of higher education in England.  His frustrations have led to him taking a position at a university in Germany.  As an administrator (I try to kid myself I’m not, but I am) I was struck by this statement:


Then there’s the administration. Leaving aside the widely pilloried and Sisyphean administrative exercises known as the research excellence framework and now the teaching excellence framework (TEF), to put it simply we have in recent times witnessed an administrative coup in UK academia. In an article focusing on the University of Oxford but painting a picture that will be familiar to most academics, The Spectator wrote that the “university’s central administrative staff is now almost three times what it was 15 years ago. There was no similar increase in full-time academic staff, the people who teach students or do research…”

I won’t speculate here on the many reasons why this might be, rather I’ll merely point out that an increase in administrators – lovely and well-meaning as most of them are as individuals – naturally does not do what you might naively expect, ie, take care of the administration so that academics can focus on academic work. No, instead it breeds ever more complex administrative mazes that are not just difficult to navigate but are de facto becoming the main part of the job. Kafkaesque would not be pushing it too far by any means.

This has motivated me to set a couple of personal goals:

  • to promote SURE as an open access resource that will increase awareness of the research done at the University of Sunderland
  • to recognise the importance of the REF, and the role SURE will play, but make the process of meeting the requirements of the REF as transparent and simple as possible

By making the requirements of the REF explicit, and highlighting the essential points, compliance should be achieved with the minimum of ‘Kafkaesque’ administration.  I’ll be publicising 3 steps to eligibility:

  1. make a record of the date any research output is accepted for publication
  2. retain the final, author-created manuscript of journal articles and published conference papers
  3. deposit these in SURE within 3 months of the date of acceptance

I hope this is fairly explicit (and not too onerous).

With regard to the first point, the key is to promote research on SURE that won’t be entered into the REF (things like PhD theses, working papers, or unpublished conference papers), or items that, while they might be ‘REF-able’, demonstrate wider impact in some way, whether through altmetrics, media coverage, or some other means.  SURE can make these research outputs far more visible than they would otherwise be, and that, for me, is the repository’s primary function.

Lots to do then!



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