To what extent does your University or funder commission independent evaluations of the projects/activity that you undertake?
Many of our HE peers tell us that they're investing a lot of their researcher's time in tracking, mapping and evaluating their research impact. With few engaging independent evaluators to support them. Indeed, through our engagement with the UK Evaluation Society, we recognise a dearth of external evaluators who might concentrate on HE-led projects.
So why aren't Universities pursuing external, independent evaluation?
Reasons that HEIER Director, Dr Tracey Wond observed in her previous role as Head of Research, College of Business (University of Derby), and upon networking with research leaders include:
a false notion that an independent evaluation is expensive. Yet, many, many hours being spent by a HEI's researchers trying to collate their own impact data is expensive (and arguably such self-assessment may result in a less valuable outcome).
a lack of awareness of the value of independent evaluation. There really has been a 'lightbulb moment' with many REF leaders when this is mentioned, notes Tracey. Several have also asked what evaluation is.
the bureaucracy involved in procuring an evaluator (seeking approval, issuing invitations to tender for instance) can act as a barrier. For those seeking evaluators then the UK Evaluation Society offer an evaluation opportunity jobs and tenders advertising service.
Benefits of independent evaluation
This Independent Evaluation Group (World Bank) article summarises the benefits of independent evaluation particularly well: https://ieg.worldbankgroup.org/blog/what-value-independent-evaluation.
Yet, there are opportunities and great value that can be delivered from commissioning independent evaluations. The Knowledge Exchange concordat suggests seeking 'third-party evidence of the value of interventions' for instance (https://www.keconcordat.ac.uk/evaluating-success/).
Perhaps you don't want to blow your own trumpet after all!