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Some of the UK’s most senior economists have criticised “perverse” outcomes of revised rules that will cut quality-related (QR) funding to the field by £6 million a year and to the social sciences more broadly by more than £100 million, despite a sharp improvement in Research Excellence Framework ratings.

Under changes made for the 2021 REF by Research England, the share of funding for its four main panels – medicine, health and life sciences; physical sciences, engineering and mathematics; social sciences; and arts and humanities – was fixed at 2014 REF levels. It was not adjusted to reflect the total share of quality across the panels – in effect, stopping the transfer of funds to disciplines where quality had risen substantially.

However, this rule – and the new requirement that all research-active staff submit at least one output, leading to a 46 per cent increase in entrants – appears to have dramatically skewed QR funding shares within some panels.

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