Evaluating philosophy

Below is a message from James Ladyman that just went out on Philos-L about a forthcoming volume of The Monist which looks pretty interesting, on the topic of ‘evaluating philosophy':

In the UK since 1986 funding for research as opposed to teaching has been allocated to philosophy departments on the basis of an evaluation of the quality of the philosophical research submitted by them in the so-called ‘Research Assessment Exercise’ (RAE). There have been six RAEs but they are to be replaced by the so-called ‘Research Excellence Framework’ that will incorporate a measure of the ‘impact’ of the research carried out on non-academic ‘users’ and the wider economy and society. The latter has been the subject of intense debate amid concern that evaluating philosophy in this way will discriminate against profound, esoteric and technical philosophical work that may be of the greatest intellectual value, in favour of accessible and directly applicable work, even though the medium and long term practical effects of the former may be greater although completely unpredictable. This special issue is not concerned with ‘evaluating philosophy’ in the sense of peer review for journals or presses or the routine criticism and appraisal that we engage in when we write about each other’s work, but rather with the overall assessment of the performance of philosophy individuals/departments for the purposes of allocating funding by civil servants. In other words, ‘evaluating philosophy’ for the purposes of public policy decision making, rather than value judgments about philosophy per se. The former has of course relied on the latter as in the past UK RAEs which were based ultimately on peer review although modulated by evaluations based on numbers of postgraduates and activity levels which are not judgments of philosophical quality directly.) The UK is important because it is perceived to be a pioneer in research excellence measurement and its systems have been emulated in the past. The aim of this issue is to consider the theoretical and practical merits and demerits of different approaches to the evaluation of philosophy.

The deadline for contributions, according to Prof. Ladyman, is the end of April.

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