Special Circumstances

Normally, Category A staff are expected to submit four research outputs, published in the census period 1.1.2001 to 31.12.2007. If someone submits fewer outputs then the "missing" ones will be ranked as unclassified, which is damaging to our profile. However, if for good reasons, someone was not an active researcher for a significant part of the census period, then they be allowed to submit fewer outputs without penalty. The "good reasons" are that they have "special circumstances" including being an "early career researcher" (see below for definitions) and there is a formula to calculate the amount of compensation permitted. Even when someone with special circumstances has four outputs, it can be in our interest to ask for compensation, e.g. when some of their four outputs are of significantly lower quality than others.

Definition of Special Circumstances

The following Definition of Special Circumstances is taken from the RAE's Generic statement on criteria and working methods.

39. Panels will consider the following individual circumstances to the extent that they are stated to have had a material impact on the individual's ability to produce the expected volume of research outputs in the assessment period:

"Panels will consider the following individual circumstances to the extent that they are stated to have had a material impact on the individual's ability to produce the expected volume of research outputs in the assessment period:

The document describing the working methods for RAE sub-panel F23, "Computer Science and Informatics" then says.

15. The sub-panel may make allowances for the listing of fewer than four outputs in cases where individual staff circumstances such as those listed at paragraph 39 of the generic statement are cited.

If you think that you meet any of these criteria and you have not already told me about them, then please do so asap. If I already know then I will have put this information on your draft RA2 form.

Early Career Researcher

The working methods for RAE sub-panel F23 defines "Early Career Researchers" as follows.

51. Early career researchers are individuals of any age who first entered the academic profession on employment terms that qualified them for submission to RAE2008 as Category A staff on or after 1 August 2003. The sub-panel encourages departments to submit early career researchers, even if their volume of output is limited. The sub-panel expects to see a clear statement on how such staff contribute to and are supported by the research environment. Early career researchers may submit up to four outputs.

However, it then goes on to say.

52. Where individuals who are new to academic research but who have an established research portfolio from an earlier career as post-doctoral researchers or in industry or overseas are included, the sub-panel would normally expect four outputs to be submitted.

The Compensation Formula

The working methods for RAE sub-panel F23 provides the following formula for calculating the amount of compensation due for special circumstances, which includes being an early career researcher.

16. The sub-panel recognises that special circumstances may occur in combination and will be responsive to a reasoned case in RA5b based on the following principles: each individual submitted for assessment must submit at least one output one item of output is expected for each 21 months of full-time equivalent work during the publication period in a Category A post (or similar post outside the UK HE sector).

We can unpack this formula to make it more explicit as follows. In the following table the first column gives the dates within which an early career research became Cat A eligible, the second column gives the range of months that someone with special circumstances was not research active, and the third column gives the minimum number of outputs that such a Cat A must submit. Note that the dates for early career researchers are not quite pro rata, because the earlist date for eligibility is set at 1 Aug 2003, whereas a pro rata calculation would put it at 1 Oct 2002.
Became Eligible Months Inactive Minimal No. Outputs
Before 1 Aug 2003 Less than 21 4
1 Aug 2003 to 30 June 2004 21-41 3
1 July 2004 to 31 Mar 2006 42-62 2
After 31 Mar 2006 63 or more 1

If you intend to claim special circumstances, please check your period of research (in)activity against the above table and ensure that you have the minimum number of outputs required. Please let Alan Bundy know how many outputs you intend to submit.

I currently predict that outputs ranked 3* or 4* will raise our profile, so should be submitted when possible, whereas outputs ranked 1* or 2* will lower our profile, so should not be submitted if special circumstances compensation allows this. If you are unsure of the ranking of your papers, please ask someone senior in your field, e.g., your mentor, principal investigator, appraiser or director of institute. Note that you can update the star ranking of your outputs by visiting the publication update form.

Alan Bundy
Last modified: Fri Apr 27 15:22:42 BST 2007