BPS responds to RAE consultation
OVER the summer the Research Board of the BPS set up a broadly based
steering group, representing different research areas within
psychology, to contribute to
RB responses to consultations regarding the 2008 RAE. The board consulted its full membership and then had members of the steering group make additional submissions. The steering group included Dominic Abrams (chair), Trevor Harley, Derek Johnston, Tony Crocker, Peter Mitchell, Judi Ellis, Lindsay Moon, David Pearson and Nick Tarrier. After gathering submissions, the chair drafted a detailed response to the RAE consultation for Panel 44 (Psychology) and main Panel K (Psychology, Education, Sport Sciences), with cross-referral to other panels (particularly Panel 9). This draft was considered in detail and finalised at a meeting the Research Board Executive Committee.
The response submitted by the Research Board is consistent with that by the Association of Heads of Psychology Departments (AHPD). The response has also been endorsed by the Joint Committee for Psychology in Higher Education (JCPHE), which includes AHPD, the BPS and the Experimental Psychology Society. Our aim was to provide the RAE panels with as much information as possible to help them formulate an approach that will have consensual support among the research community, and will be regarded as having the necessary levels of validity and transparency. The response (see tinyurl.com/abwxp) provides detailed answers (16 pages), relating to the nine consultation questions and also recommends specific cross-referencing both to Panel 9 and to non-psychology panels. We also explicitly asked those panels to refer to our submission for Panel 44.
The response to the consultation included 24 recommendations. The main points may be summarised as follows.
l The working methods and criteria were broadly welcomed. The board agreed with all three statements from the Main Panel, and agreed with six out of eight questions from Panel 44. For all of these questions the board made additional recommendations. The board did not agree that the range of indicators for excellence seemed sufficient and did not agree that the criteria were sufficiently developed in the case of practice-based and applied research.
l The complexity and diversity of our discipline means that psychologists
are engaging in very diverse types of research in very different circumstances, with very different opportunities for dissemination and very different types of audience. This has a number of implications.
l The board takes the view that UK psychology is extremely visible internationally and is an extremely strong research-based discipline. We highlighted that it is important to use a criterion-referenced approach rather than (UK) norm referencing, and to bear in mind that the strengths in particular areas may well be spread across, not just within, organisations.
l World-class work may often have a national, rather than international, audience (e.g. particularly in applied areas where UK law or institutions are different from those overseas).
l The management of research should be given appropriate weight, as well as its production and outputs that are identifiable at the level of particular individuals. The relationship between individual and team-based products needs to be explicit.
l The situation of junior and part-time researchers, as well as those whose work has impact outside the academic peer review system, was highlighted. It was recommended that there should be more explicit information about how circumstances may affect the appropriate expectations for the volume and quality of outputs.
l We requested that more, and clearer, consideration should be given to how to operationalise the esteem and environment indicators (e.g. the potential double counting of numbers of research council funded studentships in both indicators, the way research grants are ‘scored’, and attention to the context in which these have been secured).
l We asked the panels to give clearer guidance on how they will regard DClinPsy students (as taught students vs. as research students).
l We asked for greater clarity about the meaning of the boundaries between 4*, 3* and 2*.
The psychology panel(s) will face a challenging task in evaluating a large amount of diverse evidence. The differences in research approaches and outputs within psychology span the differences between the social and natural sciences as a whole. This means that the psychology panels will have to deal with a similar set of questions to those that face main panels, or indeed the RAE as a whole, regarding comparability of indicators of excellence and esteem.
We hope very much that our responses to the Consultation of Draft Criteria and Working Methods are useful for the psychology panels and to the RAE panels more generally.
Dominic Abrams, Chair BPS Research Board, Chair JCPHE
Arthur Summerfield 1923–2005
ON 10 September Professor Arthur Summerfield died in North Yorkshire
after a short illness. A former President of The British Psychological
Society, he was elected to Honorary Life Membershipin 1993 in
recognition of the sustained contribution that he had made to the
As an academic for nearly 40 years, he moulded the lives of countless students instilling in them the virtues of clarity, accuracy and attention to detail. He published across
a number of areas that would now be called cognitive psychology and was amongst the small group of researchers who pioneered psychopharmacology in Britain. He was the Scientific Editor of the three issues of the British Medical Bulletin on experimental psychology, cognitive psychology and psychobiology.
Arthur’s early life was difficult, and he later felt that his triumph over adversity could help others overcome seemingly impossible obstacles and develop their full potential. His mother died when Arthur was seven and his father when he was 15, forcing him to drop out of school in order to earn a living. Two Manchester Grammar School teachers intervened after a year, and he eventually went back to school. Arthur then proceeded to Manchester University and graduated in electrical engineering.
Called up for military service during the Second World War, he was commissioned as an Electrical Officer in the Fleet Air Arm. His talents were spotted by Alec Rodger, who arranged his transfer to the Department of the Senior Psychologist in the Admiralty for the rest of the war. On demobilisation, his interest fired by his practical experience of psychology in the Navy, Arthur entered the Psychology Department of University College London and graduated in psychology
in 1949. He was awarded the top first in London University that year.
Arthur Summerfield joined the British Psychological Society as a student in 1947. He became an Associate Fellow in 1951, a Fellow in 1957 and received chartered status as soon as it was available in 1988. He made an immediate mark on the Society and was elected Honorary General Secretary in 1954; a role which he performed assiduously for five years. After three years as Deputy President he became President Elect. He was President in 1963 and Vice President in 1964.
Between 1953 and 1984 he served on the BPS Council for a record total of 27 years, providing an unparalleled period of advice for the Society and an unrivalled long-term memory for the Council. Perhaps his two most significant contributions were to achieve the Royal Charter for the Society in 1965 and in 1973 to define the reorganisation of the Society, including the appointment of a full-time psychologist as General Secretary, and the establishment of the Scientific Affairs Board and the Professional Affairs Board with devolved powers. He later became the first chair of the newly defined Scientific Affairs Board.
Beyond the Society, Arthur was highly influential in determining the role of psychologists in education – through the Summerfield Report in 1968, and as chair of the DES Working Party on Psychologists in Education Services, which led to educational psychologists being granted legal status for the first time.
There was also a very strong internationalist dimension to Arthur’s work. He was a member of the Assembly of the International Union of Psychological Science representing the UK for 27 years, serving as vice-president and then president from 1972 to 1980. He was a member of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on International Relations, and was a director of the Vienna Centre. He served on the International Social Science Council and was its president from 1977 to 1981. From 1983 to 1987 he was a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU) study group on biological, medical and physical effects of large-scale use of nuclear weapons, which were matters of particular concern to him.
Arthur’s life was one of service. He dedicated it to serving many organisations mostly at the highest level. After 15 years at University College London and 27 in the Chair at Birkbeck College he retired to set up a company
of chartered psychologists providing psychological consultancy to British and European companies, with his wife Angela. He retired a second time from this successful activity in 2001 to spend a long-deserved and contented retirement supported by Angela, Arthur's two children Penny and Quentin and their families.
Professor David Legge
- If you would like to celebrate the life of Arthur Summerfield, contribute to our discussion forum via www.thepsychologist.org.uk.
BPS Members can discuss this article
Already a member? Or Create an account
Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber