Friday, 12 March 2010

Transformers: Impact in Disguise?

Interesting news from the EPSRC peer review panels. Apparently panel members are now being asked to assess the 'transformative' potential of a proposal. And, in a strange reverse of traditional marking conventions, 'A' is for humdrum applications, 'D' is for uber-transformative ones. Here's the list in full:
  • A: Builds on current work and is the accepted way forward;
  • B: Some work packages deviate from the accepted way forward and show elements of adventure and creativity;
  • C: The majority of the work packages show high levels of adventure and creativity e.g. new methods, new techniques, bringing together existing approaches to form new directions;
  • D: Entire proposal presents high levels of adventure with a highly creative approach with the potential of the research to be transformative e.g. creation of new area of research, paradigm shift, disrupting current approaches/methodology.

By 'transformative', EPSRC mean 'research that has the capacity to either: revolutionise existing fields, create new subfields, cause paradigm shifts in existing thought and knowledge, and/or support discovery that might lead to radically new (disruptive) technologies.'

Whilst this might seem a million miles from 'impact', with its applied research overtones, it's yet another way that peer reviewers are being asked to distinguish between proposals on any other criterion but quality. And, whilst EPSRC are clearly saying that a proposal's 'transformative score' has no bearing on the final overall score, will that always be the case, or is this the beginnings of another assessment hoop that applicants will be expected to jump through?

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