Audit Guidance from REF

Audit Guidance 2019/04  PDF 

This document released June 2019 sets out the guidance to UK higher education institutions for audit in REF 2021. It is published alongside the ‘Guidance on submissions’. It describes the approaches and methods that will be used to provide assurance that the data submitted are accurate, verifiable and robust.

Executive summary

1. This document describes the approaches and methods that will be used to provide assurance that data submitted to the REF are accurate, verifiable and robust.
Key points
2. The aim of the REF audit and data verification process is to give assurance that the data submitted by HEIs as part of the REF exercise are accurate and reliable. By enabling panels to make assessments based on accurate data, this will provide confidence in the outcomes of the REF exercise.
3. The approach to verifying submissions and the level of scrutiny applied will be proportionate to the scale of the REF exercise and the need to assure the accuracy of submitted data.
4. This audit guidance covers the full scope of audit for REF 2021, including the approach to auditing compliance with the REF open access (OA) policy. Institutions should ensure they satisfy themselves on the accuracy of the information they submit, and should also maintain accurate records enabling them to verify this information.
Action required
5. This document is for information and to inform institutions about the principles and processes that the REF will use to verify the accuracy of submitted data. No action is required by HEIs at this stage.

REF2021 Timetable to submission

January 2019 Publication of final ‘Guidance on submissions’, ’Panel criteria’, and ‘Guidance on codes of practice’; appointment of additional EDAP members
Spring/summer 2019 Institutions intending to make submissions to the REF submit their codes of practice; invitation to request multiple submissions, case studies requiring security clearance, and exceptions to submission for small units (staggered deadlines in May, September and December 2019); beta versions of the submission system will be available in both test and live environments for institutions to use
Autumn 2019 Pilot of the REF submission system; survey of submissions intentions opens; proposed date for inviting reduction requests for staff circumstances
December 2019 Survey of submissions intentions complete; final deadline for requests for multiple submissions, case studies requiring security clearance, and exceptions to submission for small units; publication of approved codes of practice
Early 2020 Formal release of the submission systems and accompanying technical guidance; invitation to HEIs to make submissions; invitation to nominate panel members and assessors for the assessment phase; deadline for staff circumstances requests
Mid 2020 Appointment of additional members and assessors to panels
31 July 2020 Census date for staff; end of assessment period (for research impacts, the research environment, and data about research income and research doctoral degrees awarded)
27 November 2020 Closing date for submissions
31 December 2020 End of publication period (cut-off point for publication of research outputs, and for outputs underpinning impact case studies)
29 January 2021 Deadline for providing further details for outputs pending publication; redacted versions of impact case studies; and corroborating evidence held for impact case studies
Throughout 2021 Panels assess submissions
December 2021 Publication of outcomes
Spring 2022 Publication of submissions, panel overview reports and sub-profiles

REF2021 Guidance on submissions

This document sets out the general framework for assessment in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) and guidance to UK higher education institutions about making submissions to REF 2021. It includes guidance on procedures, the data that will be required, and the criteria and definitions that will apply. The deadline for submissions is midday, Friday 27 November 2020.

Avoiding impact imposter syndrome; lessons for first class impact

Julie Bayley

(I just remembered this when looking through my files…..originally published by Research Fortnight…….still rings true)

As I write this, I’m sitting on a train. I won’t lie, I’m in first class. Admittedly it’s because I stumbled on a great advanced deal, but whatever the reason, my mum is still taking this as a measure that I’ve ‘gone up in the world’.

Around me are a lot of people in suits, lifting their sparkly smartphones to their ears and – largely speaking – impressively balancing passive-aggression with the art of barking orders at junior staff.  The main thing that strikes me is that they seem to know precisely what they’re doing. They have that clear authority, directive (read *ballsy*) communication style and the presence that says ‘don’t interrupt me, I’m overseeing the sale of a small island’.  Sitting here trying not to betray my ‘only here because I got a…

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REF 2021 Draft Guidance published

The Research England REF team have published the Draft Guidance Consultation, a Consultation on Panel Criteria and Working Methods, and the Draft Guidance on Codes of Practice.
Responses by 15 October
Responses by 15 October
This is draft guidance with the final guidance published in January 2019. Deadline for submissions of Codes of Practice is 7 June 2019.

Over 80% of research outputs meet requirements of REF 2021 open access policy

From Research England 14 June 2018

Sixty one per cent of research outputs known to be in scope for the REF 2021 are meeting open access deposit, discovery and access requirements, with a further twenty per cent reporting a known exception, a report published today shows.

The report details the findings of a survey by the former Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Wellcome Trust, the former Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Jisc. The survey sought to assess how the sector is delivering funders’ open access (OA) policies and to understand some of the challenges the sector faces. The four project partners were also interested in understanding the methods and tools being used across the sector to ensure policy compliance.

Research England’s Executive Chair, David Sweeney, said:

‘Research England is committed to open research and making publically funded research as freely and as widely available as possible is an important part of the research system. We are pleased to see the progress the sector is making with implementing the REF open access policy. We expect institutions to find this benchmark data useful when considering their own practices.’

Results from the survey show that over two thirds of Gold OA charges from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018 were funded by RCUK and/or the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF), highlighting the sector’s reliance on these central funds to support this route to open access.

Respondents also highlighted some of the challenges of open access and the wide variety of systems and software solutions being used to monitor OA compliance, deposit author-accepted manuscripts (AAMs), and track article processing charges (APCs).

Survey responses highlighted the need for greater interoperability between systems, and over fifty percent of universities indicated that they intend to adopt the Jisc Publications Router in the future as one way to address this challenge.

The report comes as Wellcome reviews its open access policy for the first time since 2012. UK Research and Innovation will also carry out an internal review of its OA policies across the research councils over the next year. The REF 2021 OA policy will not be affected by this review.

One hundred and thirteen universities took part in the survey, which was piloted by Research Consulting in spring 2017 and circulated to HEIs during summer 2017.

Survey responses were used to inform the REF decisions on staff and outputs, published in November 2017.



  1. Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. We are responsible for funding, engaging with and understanding these institutions, and working with devolved funding bodies and the Office for Students to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity. We support and challenge universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. We distribute over £2.2bn to universities in England every year in the form of quality-related research (QR) funding, and via the Higher Education Innovation Fund. We are responsible for administering the Research Excellence Framework, used to inform QR funding, and for delivering the forthcoming Knowledge Exchange Framework. We also support specific activities with dedicated project funding, including the £900m UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, and the £100m Connecting Capability Fund. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 established Research England as a Council of UK Research and Innovation alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK.
  2. HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018, with its research and knowledge exchange functions assumed by Research England, a new council within UK Research and Innovation. Research England is responsible for providing grant funding to English universities for research and knowledge exchange activities; developing and implementing the Research Excellence Framework in partnership with the UK Higher Education funding bodies; overseeing the sustainability of the Higher Education research base in England; overseeing the £900 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund; and the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).
  3. As of 1 April 2018 UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils (previously represented by RCUK), Innovate UK and Research England.
  4. COAF is a partnership between six health research charities, including the Wellcome Trust, to enable free and unrestricted access to the published outputs of the research they support.
  5. The Wellcome Trust announced an internal review of its open access policy on 5 March 2018.
  6. REF 2021 decisions on staff and outputs can be viewed here.

Preparing for Research for REF2021 with John Dargan

John Dargan,Senior Lecturer BA Illustration and Animation discusses the process of developing his work for mock REF 2021 submission.
Part 1

In part 1 John talks about his work The Battle of Le Cateau, 2016 (, and about the motivations to contributing to mock REF

Part 2

Framing practice as research

Part 3

Developing 300 word statement