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Minutes of the UKCASA Annual Meeting 1st October 2018

November 18, 2019

Senate House, University of London, 12pm

Present: Tony Chafer (ASMCF, Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France, UKCASA President), Susan Hodgett (British Association for Canadian Studies and UKCASA Treasurer), Jon Oldfield (BASEES, UKCASA Secretary), Michael Collins (British Association for American Studies), S Yi (British Association for Chinese Studies), Alan Hallsworth (British Association for Canadian Studies), Peter Matanle (British Association of Japanese Studies), Maria Garcia (UACES), John Fisher (Society for Latin American Studies), Deirdre McKay (Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK).


Apologies: NA


  1. Minutes and matters arising: 

Minutes for the meeting 29 January 2018 were discussed. The affiliation for the postgraduate support was corrected. The minutes were then agreed as an accurate statement.

  1. The sole item on the agenda was UKCASA’s response to the REF2021 consultation on guidance and criteria. The Chair noted that the deadline for the feedback was 15th October 2018. The Chair provided a brief overview of the main issues and opened the discussion up to the floor.

Cross-referral issues and interdisciplinarity

It was noted that at times there was limited consistency within the document concerning the stated boundaries of the different units of study. More specifically, there seemed scope for other units of assessment (beyond Area Studies) to be clearer with respect to cross-referral potential via their unit descriptors.

This general point was returned to at the end of the discussion with comment on the changing ways in which different panels are framing their activities, resulting in an overlap between different panels in some cases e.g. it was noted that the Politics Panel had listed Area Studies as part of what is covered by the UoA. There was some discussion over the extent to which interdisciplinary Area Studies work might be treated fairly by a disciplinary-based panel.

There was a discussion around the potential discrepancy between the current funding agenda (e.g. emphasis on Global Challenges) and the somewhat rigid disciplinary-based emphasis of REF i.e. initiatives such as the GCRF encourage interdisciplinary work beyond the UK. This led on to a reflection on the role of Interdisciplinary Champions (IDs). There was some uncertainty over the effectiveness of such champions particularly in view of the likely increase in the volume of interdisciplinary work returning to different panels (not just panels such as Area Studies). At the same time, it was acknowledged that the function of ID champions was to ensure that interdisciplinary work was not disadvantaged and as such they could call on further assistance if required.

It was stressed that the Area Studies panel was the ‘stand out’ interdisciplinary UoA in the last REF exercise.

Impact Case studies

Discussion moved on to consider the role of impact case studies and it was suggested that the nature of much Area Studies work, where the impact was overseas, undermined the submission of case studies, with knock-on effects for the number of returning Area Studies departments i.e. it was often more difficult to demonstrate impact beyond the UK due to a host of logistical, social and political issues.

It was noted that the Area Studies panel is very aware of such issues and it was also stressed that the negative perceptions often lie with the cautious attitude of institutions.

Language considerations

There was some uncertainty expressed over the extent to which the use/employment of non-English language data and sources was an integral element of a high quality Area Studies return. It was noted that while the use of non-English data was clearly common within the research outputs of the panel, it was not an essential element.

As an aside, it was noted that the Area Studies panel was aware of the tendency for some languages (and associated fieldwork) to consume considerable amounts of time due to their relative complexity, and that this had consequences for the volume and frequency of outputs.


Discussion moved on to reflect on the desirability of greater precision in the use of certain terms within the document. It was noted that the term ‘significant’ was utilised rather loosely at times. For example, different disciplines have different approaches to the issue of ‘overlap’ between outputs grounded in their different methods, approaches etc. and it would be useful to have clarification on what is understood as ‘significant overlap’ in different panels in order to avoid some outputs being penalized.

Panel D’s approach to outputs

It was flagged strongly that Panels C and D do not take account of where outputs are published, but rather emphasise the assessment of the quality of the individual piece of work.

Furthermore, it was underlined that both panels accept outputs in different languages.

And, Panel D does not take into account a journal’s impact factor.

It was noted that institutions often assume there is a hierarchy in terms of publications (and language of output), but this is not the case for Panels C and D.

Linked to this it was underlined that monographs will not need to be open access for REF 2021.

There was some discussion around the availability of expertise to assess the materials submitted to different panels and particularly in view of the likely increase in interdisciplinary work.

It was stressed that the Area Studies panel had already noted the likelihood that it would need to recruit additional expertise in due course.

Indicative list of independent Research Fellowships

Currently there is an indicative list of research fellowships provided in the documentation in order to assist institutions in making a determination as to which type of independent fellowships might be eligible for the submission process.

Some felt that an indicative list would inevitably be used conservatively by institutions and result in prestigious but less well-known fellowships not being considered. Others saw the value in such a list as long as its indicative nature was made very clear.

It was agreed that associations should flag any additional fellowships they feel might usefully appear on the indicative list to the Chair/Secretary for inclusion in the return.



Eligibility of seconded staff and the proposed ineligibility of staff based in a discrete department or unit outside the UK

No clear view emerged from the meeting on this point.

Proposal for taking account of staff circumstances

In general there was support for this proposal and the proposed tariff system.

Clarity /usefulness of glossary of output types

It was noted that there had been changes made to this section. Colleagues were asked to check if they were happy with the changes, particularly relating to edited books and translations. Any comments to the Secretary/Chair by 8th October.

Ineligible outputs from staff made redundant (unless voluntary redundancy)

There was support for this proposal.

Co-authored outputs to be submitted only once in the same unit submission

There was general support for this proposal.

Clarity of guidance

See note above.

Area Studies descriptor

It was noted that this had been revised in order to underline the panel’s openness to innovative interdisciplinary work. There was general support for the reworking of the descriptor.

  1. AOB – there was no other business to report

Chair concluded the formal affairs at 1.20pm and brought the meeting to end.

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