The Assessment of Research Quality in UK Universities: Peer Review or Metrics?


  • I am grateful to David Stott for matching the Association of Business Schools journal quality scores to the publications submitted to the Research Assessment Exercise. I am also grateful to Ian Walker, David Peel, David Otley, Mike Pidd, David Collinson, Robert Fildes, Colin Wren and two referees for very helpful and constructive comments on an earlier draft. The author alone is responsible for all views, errors and omissions.


This paper investigates the extent to which the outcomes of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise in the UK, determined by peer review, can be explained by a set of quantitative indicators. Three cognate units of assessment are examined in detail: business and management, economics and econometrics, and accounting and finance. The main finding is that each of the three components of research activity (namely, research output, esteem and research environment) is highly correlated with various quantitative indicators. A further finding is that the judgement of the Research Assessment Exercise panels was biased in favour of Russell Group universities. There is also evidence of bias by the economics and econometrics panel. The results support the use of quantitative indicators in the research assessment process, particularly a journal quality index. Requiring the panels to take bibliometric indicators into account should help not only to reduce the workload of panels but also to mitigate the problem of implicit bias.