Peter Higgs, Emeritus Professor at Edinburgh, who gave the name to the Higgs boson, has never sent an email. In a recent interview for the Guardian he called himself “an embarrassment to the department when they did research assessment exercises” and said that it’s “difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964.”
I was just watching some lectures by Richard Feynman with my office lunch. I don’t understand most of the physics… yet… but I can now see that he was not only a great writer but also a great lecturer. That made me wonder what would Feynman say about the REF (UK research excellence framework). Actually, having read a couple of his books, I don’t really wonder at all. I think he would have called it “bullshit” and gone on to produce research with far more impact than most of us ever dream of producing, and be very bad at “creating demonstrable impact”. I realise that universities can’t be run by people like Higgs and Feynman. But I do wish that impact assessment wasn’t actually impeding great research and stifling the flight of thought of scientists and researchers.