Nursing and the Research Assessment Exercise: past, present and future
In this paper we examine approaches to undertaking nursing research and building research capacity in higher education institutions in the United Kingdom (UK). First we review some of the main responses in the literature to the last two Research Assessment Exercises (RAE), then we report findings from a small study of nursing departments which entered the last RAE and finally we speculate on the likely future of nursing research in the light of recent education and health policy. We suggest that many of the difficulties experienced are an effect of contradictory health and education policies and rival ways of assessing research performance. Nursing education is caught in the ‘pincer movement’ of stringency in both sectors. In addition, the challenges of the RAE and the necessity to earn income from contracting with National Health Service (NHS) education and training consortia for teaching represent an outworking of two rival views of the role of higher education, broadly an elitist view and one that sees higher education as a supplier of the workforce needs of industry. In addition to this, the NHS R&D (research and development) strategy provides an alternative arena for collaboration, funding and reputation to that constructed by the RAE.