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Katherine Shonfield

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The definition of 'architectural research' might seem of marginal importance to most professionals.

This is a mistake. All architecture schools are now 'research rated'. The amount of money departments receive to fund architecture courses depends on how a government-appointed panel assesses their research. This means that the amount of time available per student, workshop facilities, opening hours, ability to fulfil a proper curriculum, all depend on what academics think is pukka research.

Not one of the following is accepted as research by the government: designing an innovative built project; publishing a book developing an original view of architectural history or presenting a new understanding of architectural technology; testing innovative technologies through building;testing and developing theory through the design of built architectural projects.

The government's line on architectural research has been adopted, unchanged, from the pure sciences. Anything claiming to be an original contribution to architectural knowledge has to be published as a paper in a 'refereed journal', that is examined by a group of established academic figures who decide what is and isn't of worth.

More than three decades ago Thomas Kuhn wrote a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions arguing that scientific innovation invariably occurred on the margins of academia. Academics can suppress insights which challenge their own knowledge, partly by not publishing them in the journals they preside over.

One way to make sure architectural understanding stands still is to judge insight by what gets published in refereed journals.

Isn't it time the profession did something about this method of assessing research?

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