The Impactometer™

Colin Burrow · A Modest Proposal

1. Concern has been expressed about the proposal to deploy research ‘impact’ as a criterion for allocating resources to UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) under the new Research Excellent Framework. A small group of disaffected scholars with limited understanding of knowledge-capital markets have claimed that ‘impact’ will be impossible to assess objectively and will disadvantage some disciplines and institutions.

2. We regard impact as a visionary concept, essential to fair and transparent funding-distribution within a modern HE environment, and would urge that it become the sole criterion for the Research Excellence Framework.

3. An interdisciplinary team here at the University of Southern Comforts has developed a modest proposal to develop an Impactometer™, which will objectively assess the impact of research. Costs will not exceed £134 million (plus overheads, subject to paragraph 15 below).[1]

4. Utilizing a unique form of Common Research Appliability Projection the Impactometer™ will quantify Impact™ (which is to be distinguished from ‘impact’ in the common sense) in all known disciplines (viz. Engineering, Physics, Economics, Politics, Cantonese, and Media Studies), and calculate the Research Impact Projection for each unit of assessment.

5. The development of this resource will have major consequences for the distribution of research funding. The Impact™ of the Impactometer™ itself will naturally exceed that of all other research projects, since it impacts the very structures and quantificatory methodologies of the Research Excellence Framework.

6. On startup the Impactometer™ will consequently first calculate its own Impact™. Our engineers estimate the Research Impact Projection for the Impactometer™ will be in the order of 14.93 gigapacts™.[2]

7. Coincidentally, the working assumption of the Impactometer™ is that the total Research Impact Projection for UK HEIs will be 14.93 gigapacts™.

8. The Impactometer™ will therefore automatically allocate to itself and to its stakeholders (chiefly TrustPact Holdings plc trading as The University of Southern Comforts) all research funding for HEIs.

9. This benevolent feedback-loop has significant cost implications. All future research funding can confidently be pre-allocated to a single institution, with consequent savings on administrative overheads. The Research Excellence Framework will become redundant and savings may be passed back to the Treasury.

10. Laboratories, plant, and accommodation blocks presently allocated to HEIs (‘Universities’ in older parlance) which have failed to exploit the potential of the Impact™ market may be transferred to the Holding Company as the centre of modern research excellence.

11. In pursuance of our aim to ensure maximal return from future contingencies, this infrastructure will be restructured into high quality research nodes for the study of the economics of chance, focussing on practical models derived from poker, roulette, and the dispersion of random patterns of energy through surf. We term this applied game theory, which we see as the future of research.

12. To ensure an appropriate gender balance and real life conditions for this research environment, drinks will be served to participants (at cost, plus overheads) by appropriately clothed Research Assistants, while other distractions and services will be offered which might benefit younger presently unemployed members of the local community. The knock-on effects for presently run-down inner-city HE sites will be significant. Researchers will be invited to hazard their own personal property in the projects, thus ensuring maximum value for money for HEFCE and a viable model of public-private partnership for investment in research going forward.

13. We emphasise that these transfers of funds and property can be implemented with immediate effect in advance of the actual construction of the Impactometer™ since its Impact™ can be predicted with certainty.

14. Members of our team, indeed, are confident that it will not prove necessary to construct the Impactometer™ at all. The first law of Consequence Management™ (a science pioneered at the University of Southern Comforts, in which we offer a range of accredited courses) states that the economic product of a hypothetical outcome shall be transferred to its beneficiary in anticipation of the action itself, which consequently becomes unnecessary. The principle has applied in financial markets for some time, to the great profit of UK plc.

15. Once actioned, this proposal promises savings at least equivalent to the costs of producing the Impactometer™, the manufacture of which becomes unnecessary as a result of the first law of Consequence Management™. There is therefore no barrier to the immediate transfer to the University of Southern Comforts of all HE resources and infrastructure.

16. The chief deliverable of the Impactometer™ project, however, is an end to the present arbitrary distribution of HE research funding according to nebulous conceptions of ‘quality’, and the replacement of all research by RIP. Grounded in objectivity, efficiency, and transparency, our model is one from which all stakeholders will benefit.

C. Hornblow Junior
CEO, The University of Southern Comforts


[1] Patents pending in all jurisdictions. Terms and conditions may apply. Investments may be subject to market fluctuations. All communications relating to any alleged association between the University of Southern Comforts and alleged activities of its holding companies in the Seychelles or other jurisdictions should be directed to our solicitors, Messrs Grant, Grant, and Cochon.

[2] 1 pact™=the impact of an article ‘of national significance’ as defined by the most recent Research Assessment Exercise.