The UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF) assesses the research quality (QR) in universities and this is published as 'league tables'. The most recent REF was carried out in 2014; this replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) which last took place in 2008.
The RSS working group, made up of RSS members and statistics professors Paul Fearnhead (Lancaster University), David Firth (University of Warwick) and Jonathan Forster (University of Southampton), was formed in January 2015 to examine the methodology used in the latest REF.
In the subsequent report, the group expresses concern that the REF is ‘based on calculations that do not permit the intended direct comparisons of research quality.’ It points out that institutions were able to select which researchers to include, and that their selectivity often ‘differed substantially’ between institutions.
The report makes a series of recommendations; addressed specifically to the compilers of the league tables and to the national funding councils. A theme running through all of the recommendations was towards the elimination, as far as possible, the effects of “strategic” decisions made by universities about their REF submissions.
The report is available in full on the RSS main website. RSS President Peter Diggle has also had a letter published in the Times Higher Education responding to an article on this issue, where he outlines some of the recommendations made in the Working Group's report.