This is a follow-up to the earlier entry on the recently held RAE. I was interested in the assessment of the state of research in my field, namely theoretical computer science and discrete mathematics.
These two areas are broadly covered in the Panel Section. Theoretical computer science was covered both in the ‘Computer Science and Information’ report and the ‘Pure Mathematics section’. One particularly positive point was that the research area of algorithms and complexity got a special mention and some positive feedback:
There was a significant increase in research in algorithms and complexity, including the establishment of several new centres of excellence. This increased activity was not, however, limited to the research groups specialising in this area, but permeated research in many other areas, such as data-mining, vision, evolutionary computing, agents, etc
The research examined was generally much more rigorous that in 2001. There was a more widespread use of mathematics, e.g., to establish the complexity, soundness, completeness and termination of algorithms.
Since, there is currently a major debate on impact factors and citations, the RAE panel noted that citations cannot be used to compare different fields:
We frequently found that citation counts were poorly correlated with the sub-panel’s assessment of the impact of the work examined. Citations also varied widely between research areas. For instance, much of the highly significant theoretical research, in which the UK is world leading, typically attracts low citation counts. Despite these low citations, the work is often found to have profound long-term impact on practical aspects of the field.