REF2021 Guidance published

Posted in: REF

The UK’s four higher education funding bodies published the draft guidance and criteria on making submissions to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, for consultation on July 23rd 2018.  Further information can be found on the ‘Publications’ section of the REF 2021 website:

A summary of the main features of REF2021, which builds on the initial decisions document in 2017, can be found here:

The newly published guidance answers many of the remaining questions and makes some key points about how REF2021 will operate.  There are some aspects still open for consultation with some specific question posed in the documents.  The university will respond to the consultation which closes on October 15th 2018.  If you have any comments you would like considered please contact Katy McKen, Head of Research Information.  Individuals can also respond to the consultation or feed in via subject associations and learned societies.

Some key messages from the guidance

1) REF remains a process of expert review.  The Panel working methods document is explicit in the following statement:

  1. "No sub-panel will use journal impact factors or any hierarchy of journals in their assessment of outputs. No output will be privileged or disadvantaged on the basis of the publisher, where it is published or the medium of its publication." [Reference: PDF page 50]

Citation data will be used by the same panels and on the same basis as in REF2014.  That is, as additional information about the academic significance of submitted outputs, expert judgement remains the primary means for assessing outputs.

See also the University’s Principles on research assessment and management.

2) Interdisciplinary research. Several measures have been taken to ensure that interdisciplinary research is treated equitably in REF2021.  These include the creation of an Interdisciplinary research advisory panel (IDAP) and the appointment of an interdisciplinary research advisers to all sub-panels.   For the purposes of REF2021, interdisciplinary research is understood to achieve outcomes (including new approaches) that could not be achieved within the framework of a single discipline.

3) Impact case studies. For the purposes of the REF impact is 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." [Reference: PDF page 89]

This is the same as the definition for REF2014, but for REF2021 impacts on students, teaching or other activities both within and beyond the submitting HEI are included.

The impact case study template is almost the same as the REF2104 template, but case studies can now be five pages in length instead of four.

Where there is continuing impact and the case study meets the other eligibility criteria, case studies continuing from those submitted in 2014 will be eligible.

4) Institutional Environment Statement. Each HEI will need to produce an institutional-level environment statement which will be included in each UOA’s submission.  Sub-panels will take into account the information provided in the institutional-level statement when assessing the unit-level statement. The institutional level statement will not be separately scored by the sub-panels.

The institutional-level statement will consist of the following sections:

  1. Context and mission
  2. Strategy
  3. People
  4. Income, Infrastructure and facilities

5) Star levels. The star level definitions remain the same as in 2014.  For the overall quality profile these are:

Four star: Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour

Three star: Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence

Two star: Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour

One star: Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour

Unclassified: Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

Posted in: REF


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