HEFCE Report Reveals Inequality in 2008 RAE

A HEFCE report reviewing equality and diversity in relation to the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) has revealed that men were 40% more likely than women to be entered in the assessment. Black researchers of both genders had a 40% chance of selection, compared to 60% plus for researchers from other ethnic groups.

The HEFCE analysis suggests that the gender and ethnicity gap persists even after taking into account subject area. The disparity in ethnicity is more pronounced than in 2001.

The HEFCE report states; “”As with RAE 2001, having accounted for other measurable factors, differences between selection of men and women continue to be observed over the age range 30 to 50, despite the changes between RAE 2001 and RAE 2008 to promote equal opportunities…While this behaviour may be linked to selection bias resulting from age and gender, it could equally be a result of deeply rooted inequalities in the research careers of men and women.”

Commenting on the findings in relation to gender, Annette Williams, Director of the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, said that the blame lay with the selection process for the RAE. A review just completed by the Equality Challenge Unit sets out recommendations for changes to the selection process for the new Research Excellence Framework, the RAE’s successor.

It is anticipated that the REF will mandate greater consistency in relation to panels and sub-panels’ application of equal opportunities guidance. The REF is also expected to provide clearer information to assessors regarding how career breaks should be entered into the assessment.

Original article by Zoe Corbyn, Times Higher Education, 17 September 2009: Unequal Opportunities in Final RAE