3 January 2018 14:56

A Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University has been selected as one of 34 sub-panel chairs for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The four UK Higher Education Funding Bodies have announced the appointment of Professor Sylvia Walby OBE for the REF in 2021.

The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK universities and higher education colleges.

Professor Walby is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and holds the UNESCO Chair in Gender Research at Lancaster University. She is a ‘public sociologist’ engaged in research designed to have impact on the world, concerning gender inequality, violent crime and the economic crisis.

She has been at Lancaster University since 2005 having previously worked at the London School of Economics, the University of Bristol, the University of Leeds and UCLA.

Professor Walby is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and received an OBE in 2008 for services to diversity and equality.

“The appointment to chair the Sociology sub-panel is an honour and a responsibility,” said Professor Walby. “British Sociology has made tremendous contributions to research and to the wider world.  REF has the potential to recognise the value of research in a way that is better than other methods.”

The key role of each sub-panel chair is to lead their sub-paneI in developing criteria for the assessment and in consistently applying assessment standards. The chair will also play a key role in engaging with the UK higher education sector on the REF.

REF Manager Dr Kim Hackett said: “We have had an excellent response to our call for applications to the role of sub-panel chair, which has enabled the funding bodies to appoint an exceptional set of individuals to these key positions.

“We are also delighted to have achieved a good balance across types of institution and geographical regions with these appointments. The sub-panel chairs now have a key task ahead in recommending panel members, and I look forward to working with them on this task.”

The results of the REF drive the allocation of public funding for research.

This major exercise is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE).

It was last conducted in 2014, replacing the Research Assessment Exercise, which started in the mid-1980s. The development of the next exercise is now well underway.