The long-awaited results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) were announced on 18 December 2008. The School of Mathematics was jointly assessed with the mathematicians at Heriot-Watt University as the Maxwell Institute.
The results were as follows:
Pure Mathematics: 25% at 4*, 45% at 3*, 30% at 2* and 0% at 1*, with a total of 41 staff assessed.
Applied Mathematics: 15% at 4*, 50% at 3*, 30% at 2* and 5% at 1*, with a total of 35.5 staff assessed.
Statistics and OR: 10% at 4*, 35% at 3*, 45% at 2* and 10% at 1*, with a total of 30 staff assessed.
What do the figures mean? These profiles are the result of assessing up to 4 research outputs (normally refereed papers) per person and giving them a star rating, with 4* the highest, corresponding to an outstanding publication of 'world-leading originality, significance and rigour' and 3* corresponding to a publication of 'international excellence'. The profiles give the proportion of publications with the different star ratings, rounded to the nearest 5%. This is a slight oversimplification since other factors were included in the assessment, but the quality of research publications was the major factor.
These profiles can be interpreted in different ways. One thing that is clear is that Pure Mathematics has consolidated its 5* rating awarded in the 2001 RAE. In fact this group comes in the top six in any of the standard UK league tables and is well ahead of its nearest rival in Scotland.
The total volume of high-quality research in the Maxwell Institute can be measured by adding the 3* and 4* percentages and multiplying by the number of staff assessed. On this measure, Pure Mathematics is third in the UK (behind Oxford and Cambridge) and both Applied and Stats/OR are fifth.
These results show the strength in depth of the Maxwell Institute's research base and augur well for the future of mathematics in Scotland's Capital.
See http://www.planning.ed.ac.uk/RAE2008Results.htm for more information, including analyses and league tables.