Society News

Elaine Funnell

With sadness, the EPS has learnt that Elaine Funnell passed away peacefully at home on Saturday 9th November, surrounded by her family.

Elaine was Hon. Sec. of the Experimental Psychology Society from 1993 to 1996 and was later made an Honorary Member.  She made many important contributions to the study of acquired language disorders in both adults and children.
 
An obituary is planned for the website as soon as feasible.

Society News

Committee’s nomination for the next Editor in Chief of the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (QJEP)

Following the EPS committee meeting, we are delighted to announce the Committee’s nomination for approval at the Annual General Meeting in January for the next Editor in Chief of the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (QJEP).

The Committee seeks approval for the following nomination:

Professor Antonia Hamilton (University College London)

Society News

EPS / BSA Undergraduate Project Prize Winner for 2020

Congratulations to Lenard Dome from Plymouth University (and Lenard’s supervisor, Professor Andy Wills) who has been selected as the winner of the EPS / BSA prize for best undergraduate research project in experimental psychology!

There were many outstanding submissions brought to the attention of BSA and EPS, congratulations on all nominated projects. More details of Lenard’s presentation to the EPS will be provided in future messages.

Society News

EPS award nominations for approval at the Annual General Meeting in January 2020.

Following the EPS committee meeting that took place last week, we are delighted to announce the Committee’s award nominations for approval at the Annual General Meeting in January.

Election of Forty Ninth Bartlett lecturer

The Committee seeks approval for the following nomination:

Professor Chris Frith (University College London)

Election of Nineteenth EPS Mid-Career Award lecturer

The Committee seeks approval for the following nomination:

Professor Mike Anderson (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit)

Election of Twenty Eighth EPS Prize lecture

The Committee seeks approval for the following nomination:

Dr Sarah Lloyd-Fox (University of Cambridge)

Election of Ninth Frith Prize lecturer

The Committee seeks approval for the following nomination:

Dr Emma James (University of York)

Election of Officers and Committee Members

The Committee seeks approval for the following nominations:

Early Career Representative

Dr Daniel Yon (Goldsmiths)

London Organiser

Dr Jo Taylor (University College London)

Conference Secretary elect

Dr Andrew Johnson (Bournemouth University)

Ordinary Committee Member

Dr Elisabeth Bradford (University of Dundee)

Society News

REF 2021 news for UOA 4 Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience – 31st January 2019

Today sees the publication of the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions, Guidance on Codes of Practice and on the Panel Criteria and Working Methods https://www.ref.ac.uk. These documents are the product of extensive consultation and are designed to provide clarity on the full range of activities related to REF 2021. The disciplines of psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience have been actively involved in this process and their views have been taken into account in arriving at the final forms of the guidance. We are writing to fill you in on two important developments related to UOA 4 arising from this consultation.

Research cost levels
Following concerns about the wide range of research costs across the UOA, the REF team considered a proposal to differentiate the cost levels of individual outputs. Over the summer, a pilot exercise assessed the feasibility of the approach and there was wider consultation with HEIs and learned societies regarding its potential value.
Feedback from the 61 participating HEIs indicated that the process of assigning cost activity to outputs was moderately straightforward. However, responses to the wider consultation on this issue were mixed. A significant minority of respondents including key bodies within UOA 4’s subject communities set out clear reservations. Some respondents were opposed to the principle of using REF to capture information on funding and expressed some related concerns that it may lead to an alignment of cost and quality in the assessment. Many considered that the proposed approach would skew the selection of outputs and that this could distort investment and research focus in these disciplines more widely.

Sub-panel 4 discussed the outcomes from the pilot and the consultation at its meeting on 14 November. After extensive consideration of risks and benefits, it advised the funding bodies that the differentiation of research cost by output had high levels of risk and did not have sufficiently broad support from the community to proceed. The decision was supported by the REF Main Panel A and the REF Steering Group decided not to pursue this approach. Thus in common with all other UOAs in REF2021, there will be no classification of outputs by research cost in UOA.

Following concerns about the wide range of research costs across the UOA, the REF team considered a proposal to differentiate the cost levels of individual outputs. Over the summer, a pilot exercise assessed the feasibility of the approach and there was wider consultation with HEIs and learned societies regarding its potential value.

Feedback from the 61 participating HEIs indicated that the process of assigning cost activity to outputs was moderately straightforward. However, responses to the wider consultation on this issue were mixed. A significant minority of respondents including key bodies within UOA 4’s subject communities set out clear reservations. Some respondents were opposed to the principle of using REF to capture information on funding and expressed some related concerns that it may lead to an alignment of cost and quality in the assessment. Many considered that the proposed approach would skew the selection of outputs and that this could distort investment and research focus in these disciplines more widely.

Sub-panel 4 discussed the outcomes from the pilot and the consultation at its meeting on 14 November. After extensive consideration of risks and benefits, it advised the funding bodies that the differentiation of research cost by output had high levels of risk and did not have sufficiently broad support from the community to proceed. The decision was supported by the REF Main Panel A and the REF Steering Group decided not to pursue this approach. Thus in common with all other UOAs in REF2021, there will be no classification of outputs by research cost in UOA.

Colleagues in the funding and policy teams at Research England and the other
funding bodies will continue to consider how best to approach the funding question
outside of the REF process.

Appointment of a qualitative methods expert for the assessment phase
In response to requests from the relevant academic communities, the REF team
agreed to make an early appointment to the sub-panel of a specialist in qualitative
methods for the assessment phase. The process of appointing to this role has
started and will draw from the nominations for sub-panel membership in Spring 2018.

This appointment will be announced at the earliest opportunity.
Over the coming period the sub-panel will continue to support broad understanding
of the REF 2021 process and how it applies to our disciplines. We will keep open all
channels of communication and are committed to ensuring that REF processes are
applied with fairness, consistency and transparency in our UOA.


Yours sincerely,

Professor Susan E. Gathercole

Chair of UoA 4 Psychology

Psychiatry and Neuroscience sub-panel

susan.gathercole@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

Professor John P. Iredale

Chair of REF 2021 Main panel

Ji16531@bristol.ac.uk



Society News

EPS response to REF consultation on UoA4 costing exercise

As a Learned Society, the EPS was invited to consider the current REF consultation exercise, and submit a response to a variety of questions. The deadline was 15 October 2018. The Officers do their best to express a view in response to consultations that fits with their understanding of Members’ interests and attitudes, and with the overall field of experimental psychology, bearing in mind the constraints in how such exercises are timed. The broader strategy of the Society can be, and often is, actively debated at AGM.

At a number of points in the REF cycle, the EPS has attempted to offer constructive suggestions and views to inform decision making at the discipline-level, whilst refraining from commenting on many issues that fall within the remit of institutional decisions or practices. The EPS committee agreed to comment specifically on the proposal that REF introduce a costing exercise for UoA4. For transparency, we report on the EPS submission below.

12a. How feasible do you consider to be the approach set out at paragraphs 267 to 271 for capturing information on the balance of research activity of different costs within submitting units in UOA 4? (300 word limit)

The Experimental Psychology Society opposes the costing of research outputs from UoA 4. Our concerns about feasibility relate to measurement, coherence, and risk of perverse incentives.

We recognise that research costs vary across projects. This is the case in many UoAs, and therefore it is not clear why costing of research outputs should be applied idiosyncratically in UoA 4.

The consultation document proposes costing of methods used in research, rather than the actual total cost of a piece of research, in the sense of its Full Economic Costing (FEC).  It is easy to think of experiments with low-cost methods but high FEC, or vice versa.  The UK science funding framework is based on FEC, and it is hard to defend using different costing frameworks for research funding (FEC) and research assessment.  Two key factors that affect the FEC of research are not mentioned: one is researcher time investment, and the other is size of a dataset.  Both have a positive effect on research quality, and particularly on research reproducibility.  The current proposal risks rewarding small, irreproducible studies with high infrastructure costs, and penalising careful reproducible studies with lower infrastructure costs. This would be a major scientific mistake, and runs contrary to the current, consensual focus on improving the reliability of research.

REF focuses on the evaluation of research outputs; it is not tuned for the assessment of cost, an input measure, or for the assessment of outputs relative to inputs. We endorse this focus on outputs, and see a serious risk that conflation of input and output measurement will encourage institutions to believe they can gain by driving up the cost base of research. It is likely to encourage the use of expensive research methodologies, which is not the same as the REF’s stated aim of encouraging excellent research.

12b. Are the examples of high cost and other research activity sufficiently clear to guide classification? (300 word limit)

Based on the examples, we do not have confidence that classification will provide valid and reliable indicators of cost. One problem relates to change in costs over time. If an institution invests in expensive equipment, the costs of the first output (based on the initial capital) will be different from the next (in which the initial capital is no longer directly relevant). Another problem relates to distribution of effort. Use of expensive methods often involves collaborative teams, often working internationally. If we understand the consultation document correctly, a UK researcher who submits a paper with cutting-edge fMRI data collected at another university will bring money into the university that employs them, not the university that bore the cost of the neuroimaging facility.  (The Experimental Psychology Society advised against such ‘portability’ in a prior REF consultation.) We see no reliable way of directing the rewards towards the institutions that actually incurred the costs, which brings the risk of a perception of unfairness.

Published papers will not generally provide enough information to make accurate estimates of the cost of the methods used.  Misconceptions abound: brain stimulation, for example, is mentioned as a high-cost method, yet sample sizes are small, analyses are often simple, and the equipment can be cheap.  In animal studies, stains, reagents and vectors vary dramatically in cost, but the cost will probably be known only to those who buy them. Assessors may not have information to make accurate estimates of cost, and should not therefore be asked to do so.

12c. Please provide feedback on any specific points in the guidance text as well as the overall clarity of the guidance. (300 word limit)

Para 270 proposes a classification into three bands based on the percentage of research activity that is classed as high cost. This may encourage departments to select outputs based not on the quality of the research but on the cost of the infrastructure in order to ensure classification in a preferred band. This has the potential to be divisive, and runs counter to the central aim of the REF: to reward excellence.

The Experimental Psychology Society agrees that advanced research methods are important, and REF should encourage rather than discourage investment in key research infrastructures, such as animal labs and neuroimaging.  In our view, this should be done through the *environment* assessment, rather than through output assessment.  That way, funding for high-cost infrastructures is guaranteed to go to the HEI that bears the cost, which is not the case for output assessment.  We recommend that the REF team consider how evaluation of methods-based facilities in the environment assessment can take account of the research productivity of methods-based facilities, as well as their existence.  HEIs should be rewarded for facilities that produce useful research, not for facilities that are poorly used.

Society News

Small grants and study visits: open for open science!

The EPS committee have agreed to make explicit in the guidance for small grant and study visit  applicants that we welcome proposals that specify relevant open science practices. These awards are used for a wide variety of purposes and without being restrictive, we are simply encouraging applicants to frame their proposals in ways that help convince an audience of their potential value to applicants and the community.