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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a peer review assessment of the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The review takes place every 5-7 years. It is run by the government's Higher Education Funding Councils and is used to determine the annual quality-related (QR) grant to UK HEIs.
The last REF was REF 2014. All the submissions and results for REF 2014 remain available to view. The next REF exercise will be REF 2021.
For enquiries about REF at Solent contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The REF assesses research excellence through a process of expert review. The reviews are undertaken by panels of experts appointed to a Unit of Assessment (UoA). There are 34 UoAs, which are split between four main panels (A-D).
Each expert panel will review all of the outputs, impact and environment for the HEI in that UoA and will produce a quality profile. The overall quality profile of the HEI will reflect all of these UoA level assessments.
Only 3* and 4* results contribute to the allocation of QR funding.
The results are published at sub-panel (UoA) and main panel (A-D) level. The UoA profiles are reported as a percentage of the total submitted research activity deemed to have met each of the defined levels of quality. The overall profile comprises an aggregate of the weighted profiles produced for research outputs, research impact and research environment.
In a change to REF 2014 the weighting of the 3 different elements of the assessment exercise will be:
The REF timetable can be found here.
Key dates are:
The REF assesses research excellence through a process of expert review, informed by metrics where appropriate. HEIs submit evidence of their research outputs, research impact and research environment to UoAs, which are discipline-based expert panels who conduct the review.
HEFCE conducted an independent review to ascertain the extent to which metrics could be used in the assessment and management of research. This was reported in The Metric Tide report that concluded that metrics are not yet robust enough to replace peer review. The consultation proposes that metrics are used to inform peer review in some UoA (similar to REF 2014). The Forum for Responsible Metrics, established in 2016, produced advice in 2017 for HEFCE (and the other HE funding bodies) on the use of quantitative indicators in the assessment of outputs in REF 2021 (with further discussion planned later for assessment of impact and environments).
The Forum defines responsible metrics as using the following principles:
Previously the following UoAs used citation information as an indicator in addition to expert peer review
Main panel A - All
Main panel B - UoAs 7, 8, 9 and 11
Main panel C - UoAs 14 and 16
Main panel D - None
Peer review of research outputs will contribute to 60% of the HEIs' overall REF outcome.
For a research output to be eligible for submission ot the REF it should be considered against criteria such as:
In all UoAs individual staff may submit between 1 and 5 outputs, however, the overall submission must be an average of 2.5 outputs
e.g. UoA submitted staff = 20, so UoA submitted outputs = 50
Output portability: A transitional approach is being adopted whereby outputs may be submitted by both the institution employing the staff member of the census date and the originating institution where the staff member was previously employed when the output was demonstrably generated. 'Demonstrably generated' will be determined by the date when the output was first made publicly available. This applies to the whole REF 2021 period.
Open access: The REF Open Access policy requires outputs within the scope of the policy (journal articles and some conference proceedings) to be deposited in an open access repository as soon after the point of acceptance for publication as possible, and no later than 3 months after this date from 1 April 2018. Due to concerns around deposit on acceptance, a deposit exemption will be introduced from 1 April 2018 and remain in place for the rest of the REF2021 publication period. The will allow outputs unable to meet this deposit timescale to remain compliant if they are deposited up to 3 months after the date of publication.
Peer review, including review by research end-users, will contribute 25% ot the HEIs' overall REF outcome.
For a UoA to be eligible for submission to REF, it must have a minimum of 2 impact case studies. For every 15 staff added to the first 15 staff submitted a further impact case study must be submitted.
For a research impact case study to be eligible for submission to the REF it shoudl be considered against criteria such :as:
A template for case studies will be issued and will include mandatory fields to be completed including the following:
Impact in REF 2014 was defined as 'an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia. Impact included, but was not limited to, an effect on, change or benefit to:
Impact included the reduction or prevention of harm, risk, cost or other negative effects.
Further guidance will be issued by HEFCE on inclusion in REF 2021 of impacts on research or the advancement of academic knowledge within the higher education sector nationally or internationally, and impactsw on teaching or other activities with the submitting HEI.
Peer review of the research environment will contribute 15% to the HEIs' overall REF outcome.
For research environment to be eligible for submission to the REF it should be considered against criteria such as:
A template will be issued and will include mandatory fields to be completed including the following:
Working with the REF 2021 main panels, HEFCE will provide further guidance on identifying staff with significant responsibility for research. This will be published in the guidance on submissions and panel criteria. This guidance will not prescribe a fixed set of criteria that all staff would be required to meet, but will set out a 'menu' of what HEFCE would consider may be appropriate indicators of 'significant responsibility' for research.
Recognising that there are staff who have more significant responsibility for other activities, HEFCE will implement an approach whereby institutions, working with their staff and with guidelines, identify who is in scope for submission among staff meeting core eligibility criteria. HEFCE has defined the core eligibility criteria as:
Category A eligible:
Category A submitted:
Where the 'Category A eligible' staff definition accurately identifies all staff in the submitting unit with a signficant responsibility for research, the unit should submit 100% of staff. Where it does not accurately identify all staff in the submitting unit who have significant responsibility for research, institutions will need to implement processes to determine this and document this in a code of practice, approved by HEFCE with advice from the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP).
The Code of Practice is drawn up at each HEI in accordance with guidance issued by HEFCE. The Code of Practice will set out the criteria for eligibility of staff for submission to the REF (staff volume) and the selection process for outputs. Each HEI's Code of Practice will be approved by HEFCE before implementation, to ensure decisions are justifiable and non-discrimintatory.
A: Five sections are submitted:
A: Final decisions on which UoAs will be submitted to will be based on guidance following an internal and external peer assessment exercise
A: Academic experts are appointed to REF UoA sub-panels and review all the research submissions, research users also sit on panels and provide input into the assessment of impact case studies
A: There are four main panels (A-D) who comprise a group of expert researchers representing a broad discipline area whose role is to lead and oversee the conduct of the sub-panels under their remit. They are responsible for setting the assessment criteria, working methods and consistency of approach and adherence to criteria across the sub-panels.
A: Where a sub-panel member declares an interest they do not participate in the assessment of departments or institutions where it may be perceived that they could be open to external influences, for example; where they or a close family member are employed.
A: Guidance on submission formats will be issued in due course.
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Page last updated on Friday 16 March 2018 at 3.10pm.
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