Its focus groups criticized "higher workloads and long hours, finance-driven decisions, remote senior management teams and greater pressure for internal and external accountability."11 Some of the most telling testimony on the damage to British scholarship inflicted by the HEFCE/RAE regime has come not from an academic but from Richard Baggaley, the European publishing director of Princeton University Press, and an acute observer of the quality of British scholarly output.
Writing in the Times Higher Education Supplement in May 2007, Baggaley
deplored what he
saw as "a trend towards short-termism and narrowness of focus in British academe."12 In the natural and social sciences this took the form of "intense individual and team pressure to publish journal articles," with the writing of books strongly discouraged, and especially the writing of what he
calls "big idea books" that may define their disciplines.
attributes this bias against books directly to the distorting effects of the RAE
Journal articles are congenial to the RAE
because they can be safely completed and peer-reviewed in good time for the RAE deadline.
If they are in a prestigious journal, that is the kind of peer approval that will impress the RAE panelists.
The pressure to be published in the top journals, Baggaley
' . . . increases a tendency to play to what the journal likes, to not threaten the status quo in the discipline, to be risk-averse and less innovative, to concentrate on small incremental steps and to avoid big-picture interdisciplinary work.
n the humanities the RAE bias also works in favor of the 180-200-page monograph, hyperspecialized, cautious and incremental in its findings, with few prospects for sale as a bound book but again with a good chance of being completed and peer-reviewed in time for the RAE deadline.
A bookseller at Blackwell's, the leading Oxford bookstore, told me that he
dreaded the influx of such books as the RAE deadline approached.'
doesn't mention a further set of practices, above and beyond the RAE
, that push British academics toward "short-termism and narrowness of focus" in their research.
12 Richard Baggaley
"How the RAE
is Smothering 'Big Idea' Books
," Times Higher Education, May 25, 2007. ↩