23 SES 11 B, Research Policies and the Politics of Research
Whereas traditionally attention has been paid to the ways in which policy shapes the practice of education, the question how policy influences and shapes educational research itself has recently received more attention (Keiner, 2006, Biesta, 2007; Gretler, 2007). In this contribution we report on findings from the EDRESGOV project, a three-year comparative study of the influence of policy on the shape, form and direction of educational research in four European countries: the UK, Germany, Norway and Belgium. In making sense of the ways in which policy influences and shapes educational research, two distinctions matter. One is the distinction between policies that focus on scientific research in general and policies that focus specifically on educational research, such as national frameworks and agendas for educational research. A second is the distinction between policies that focus directly on research and policies and those that affect the general conditions for the conduct of research less directly.
In this contribution we focus on the impact and significance of a series of national research evaluations as they have been conducted periodically in the UK since 1986. Assessment exercises took place subsequently in 1989 and 1992 under the name ‘research selectivity exercise’ and in 1996, 2001 and 2008 under the name ‘research assessment exercise,’ while the latest iteration, conducted in 2014, was called ‘research excellence framework’. The main rationale behind these exercises, which have been conducted for all government-funded research, was to decide on the distribution of ‘core’ funding to universities, that is, direct grants to support the conduct of research in contrast to competitively won funding. As the distribution of such funding has been based on assessed quality of the research conducted in the previous cycle, is it known as Quality Related (QR) funding.
Recent research on the impact of such exercises has, for example, focused on academics’ perceptions of changing research cultures (Holligan 2011; Holligan et al. 2011), on the influence of particular assessment requirements (such as the demonstration of the impact of research; Francis 2011; see also Brown 2011), on the particular modes of governance exemplified in research assessment exercises (Oancea 2014), or on the shape of educational research more generally (Furlong 2013). There are also contributions from academic and professional organisations, including reports from the UK Society for Research on Higher Education (Leathwood & Read 2012) and the British Educational Research Association and the University Council for the Education of Teachers (Christie et al. 2012). This work sheds light on the ways in which research assessment exercises influence the shape and form of educational research at the macro-level by affecting the (financial) conditions for such research and at the micro-level through anticipatory strategic behaviour of individual researchers and academic departments. To this we add a focus on the meso-level of university units in which educational research is produced.
If existing research and commentary tends to focus on perceptions and practices and is generally qualitative in nature, the work we present in our contribution is based on comparative quantitative analysis of trends and patterns comparing data from RAE 2001, RAE 2008 and REF 2014 for all university schools and departments of education (‘units of assessment’) that contributed submissions to these exercises.
The main questions we address are (1) what these data reveal about the evolution and ultimately—the transformation—of educational research in the UK over this extended period, highlighting both change and continuity; (2) how the findings compare with existing qualitative analyses, and (3) what we can learn from this case about the impact of such policies on the shape, form and direction of educational research.
Biesta, G. (2007). Why ‘what works’ won’t work. Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit of educational research. Educational Theory 57(1), 1-22. Brown. C. (2011). Exploring the concepts of knowledge adoption and conceptual impact: Implications for educational research submissions to the Research Excellence Framework. Education, Knowledge & Economy: A Journal for Education and Social Enterprise 5(3), 137-154. Christie D. et al. (2012). Prospects for education research in education departments in higher education institutions in the UK. UCET/BERA Report. Francis, B. (2011) Increasing Impact? An analysis of issues raised by the impact agenda in educational research, Scottish Educational Review, 43 (2), 4-16. Furlong, J. (2013). Research assessment and the shaping of educational research in the UK. The Australian Educational Research 40(4), 513-520. Gretler, A. (2007). The international social organization of educational research in Europe. European Educational Research Journal 6(2), 174-189. Holligan C. (2011). Feudalism and academia: UK academics' accounts of research culture. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. Holligan, C., Wilson, M. and Humes, W. (2011), Research cultures in English and Scottish university education departments: An exploratory study of academic staff perceptions. British Educational Research Journal 37, 713–734. Keiner, E. (2006). Erziehungswissenschaft, Forschungskulturen und die ’europäische Forschungslandschaft. In L. Pontgratz, M. Wimmer & W. Nieke (Eds.), Bildungsphilosophie und Bildungsforschung (pp. 180-199). Bielefeld. Leathwood .C. & Read, B. (2012). Final Report: Assessing the impact of developments in research policy for research on higher education: An exploratory study. Society for Research on Higher Education. Oancea, A. (2014). Research assessment as governance technology in the United Kingdom: findings from a survey of RAE 2008 impacts. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft 17, 83-110.
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.