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UCU welcomes decision to postpone plans to force economic impact into research

9 July 2010

UCU today welcomed the announcement from the minister for universities and science, David Willetts, that there would be a one-year delay in order to review proposed changes to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The union campaigned vigorously against the plans it said would 'wreck the very basis of innovation in knowledge'. The proposals, announced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in September 2009, would have forced 25% of future research to be assessed on 'economic impacts.'
Over 18,000 academics, including eminent professors and Nobel Prize winners, signed a UCU petition against the proposals. The union made the case that if researchers had been operating under the proposed guidelines many crucial discoveries would have been missed. During the campaign the union used a quote from Albert Einstein to sum up its case: 'If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?'
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'History has taught us that some of the biggest breakthroughs have come from speculative research and it is wrong to try and measure projects purely on their economic potential. If implemented these plans would have wrecked the very basis of innovation in knowledge.
'We welcome the reprieve the minister has announced today, but will continue to make the case against the proposals. We will also be making the case that unless plans for savage cuts across the sector are reversed then we will be falling way behind our competitors when it comes to research.'
UCU produced a report that looked in greater detail at how some of our most crucial breakthroughs would not have been discovered without curiosity-driven research: Discoveries that would not survive the REF [84kb]

Last updated: 16 March 2021