Measuring impact in the humanities: Learning from accountability and economics in a contemporary history of cultural value article

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9 Citations (Scopus)


This article addresses the future of research assessment within higher education in the UK from a humanities perspective. Recent changes to policy (such as The Browne Report 2010 and the 2014 REF) indicates that humanities research is increasingly required to provide quantifiable or commercial results in order to attain value. Although research assessment exercises have been a formal part of UK higher education since the first Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in 1986, the last 6 years have seen a significant change in how research is valued within the academy. Specifically, this paper responds to the increasing prioritisation of 'impact' measurement in research assessment criteria. The article situates recent changes in higher education within a historical context of cultural policymaking in the UK from the 1980s to the present day. Such an undertaking highlights the specific challenges and nuances within the shift towards 'impact'. Firstly, this paper details how public cultural institutions (such as museums and art galleries) became subject to practises of economisation and social accountability as a result of 1980s cultural policy. A rich field of literature from museology and arts management provides valuable sources and testimonies that should be considered in the future of the academic humanities. Secondly, this paper considers the implications of the creative industries upon the perception of knowledge production since the 1990s. Following this specific history of cultural assessment mechanisms in the UK, this article concludes by demonstrating that neither the adoption of a purely economic approach nor a refusal of accountability will serve the humanities. Whilst there is a wealth of social science research that explores valuation methods and assessment culture there is a lack of humanities research within this vital debate. This article presents a response from a humanities perspective. As a result, this contribution raises awareness of the urgent need for humanities scholars to engage in these emerging and significant debates concerning the future of research assessment in the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalPalgrave Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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