In this periscope, a selection of social science and humanities scholars familiar with UK higher education and research have been asked to reflect on the challenges and opportunities that “impact” poses for critical knowledge production and the British academy going forward. From a range of different disciplinary, practical, and theoretical perspectives that straddle the critical social sciences and humanities, the contributors have pushed the implications of Britain’s new “impact” agenda to some of its most worrying and hopeful potentialities alike. But focused as this collection is on the British context, the entries also speak to a more global concern regarding the restructuring of critical space in the modern university. We invite you to join the discussion. Image: Melencolia I by Albrecht Dürer, 1514.

Impact: an Introduction

Tariq Jazeel

The new system for assessing the quality of research produced by institutions of higher education in the UK and the academics they employ will be known as the “Research Excellence Framework” (REF). Replacing the “Research Assessment Exercise” (RAE), the inaugural … Continue reading “Impact: an Introduction”

The Real Knowledge Transfer

stefano harney

In Britain, knowledge transfer (KT) is taking a new turn.  As a university policy, KT emphasized intellectual property rights.  The dream of the managers of the university was to patent knowledge produced in university departments, laboratories, and lecture halls.  This … Continue reading “The Real Knowledge Transfer”

The Impact of "Impact"

ananya jahanara kabir

Reading a grant application for a Danish research project that I participate in, the following sentence caught my eye: “[A]pplicability is desirable, but not a demand. Grundforschung is the main aim.” Taking “applicability” to be roughly equivalent to “impact,” the … Continue reading “The Impact of "Impact"”

The Curious and the Useful

richard phillips

Should scholars and scientists concentrate on being useful, or should they be guided primarily by curiosity? This stark choice — between usefulness and curiosity — has been mobilised implicitly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in recent … Continue reading “The Curious and the Useful”

Deepwater Impact

stephen shapiro

The simple fact that we are discussing “impact” proposals on the humanities and social sciences indicates a depressing failure of “impact” itself. Long after the contemporary academy has become bored with Foucauldian critiques of social control through assessment and quantitative … Continue reading “Deepwater Impact”

Academic Free Fall

neil smith

When I left Britain in the 1970s to pursue a doctorate in the US, it was an item of faith that US universities were far more corporatized than their UK counterparts, in the social sciences as well as the natural … Continue reading “Academic Free Fall”

The Impact Effect 

rick rylance

Recently RCUK, the umbrella body for the seven UK research councils, had a discussion about the language of impact. As many will know, all councils require statements about impact on grant applications. We discussed whether these should be called ‘plans’ … Continue reading “The Impact Effect ”