UK academic funding and ‘impact’

‘Impact’ is the new buzz-word in British academia. All funding applications to government research bodies must now include a statement on the work’s likely impact outside academia. And the proposed plans for the new REF (the exercise that will allocate research funding to departments nationally) will weight impact heavily in decisions. Now, this might at first sound good for such things as feminist philosophy. I had a happy moment when I thought that this policy might cause departments to suddenly place more value on research into topics that e.g. matter politically. (Though I did worry about its effect on more traditional areas, which I also value despite considering feminist philosophy undervalued.) But looking at the quite extensive discussion of impact by the Arts and Humanties Research Council that hope began to fade. Unless your work on gender is likely to feed into testimony at the House of Commons or your work on discrimination is going to be utilised by multinational corporations, it looks to me like impact will be just as hard to show for feminist philosophers as for most Arts and Humanities types. Which will only accelerate the current drive to slash Arts and Humanities funding. And which will probably affect philosophy particularly hard. So I’m signing this simple petition calling on the UK government to allocate funding on the basis of academic merit. It’s worth noting that current plans also call for a merging of subject review boards, so that philosophy departments will be assessed by the same board assessing theology and religion departments. That’s clearly madness, and the petition speaks to this point as well. (Unfortunately you’ve got to be either a UK resident or a UK citizen to sign.)

Happy Persons Day!

Tomorrow is Persons Day in Canada. On October 18, 1929 the Persons Case was settled when the Privy Council in England declared that Canadian women were indeed ‘persons’ under the law and thus could be appointed to the Senate. In honour of this decision, October is declared Women’s History Month in Canada and the 18th is Persons Day. See here for more details.

the persons case
the persns case