Summary of the Stern Report

Building on Success and Learning from Experience is an independent review of REF 2014 chaired by Lord Stern, president of the British Academy. The review offers recommendations seeking to address the challenges identified in REF 2014, including high cost; staff ‘gaming’, and high selectivity of staff.

Summary of the recommendations:

  1. All research active staff should be returned to the REF. The total number of submissions will depend on the number of full time equivalent (FTE) staff members. Stern recommends an average of 2 outputs per FTE but it will be a departmental exercise with more research active staff being able to submit up to 6 outputs.
  2. Outputs should not be portable. The outputs should stay with the university so staff changing jobs cannot take their outputs with them.
  3. Panels will continue to be assessed on peer review, but there should be an increased use of metrics and panels should be transparent about their use.
  4. Impact: 
    • Universities should be required to submit institutional level impact case studies.
    • Impact case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs.
    • Impact should be widely interpreted to include socio-economic impact, impact on government policy, public engagement and understanding, cultural live, academic impact outside the field and on teaching.
  5. Environment. There should be a new institutional level environment assessment that includes the future research environment strategy and how it will support high quality research including interdisciplinary and cross university initiatives.

Click here for an overview of the problems and issues with REF 2014 identified in Stern review.

  • Costs – the total estimated cost of REF 2014 was £246 million – 133% more than RAE 2008.
  • Gaming’ ie insitutions playing the system to improve results
  • Selection – selecting the individuals to submit was a costly and complicated exercise
  • Peer Review and the challenge of maintaining the consistency and quality of the review
  • Effects on Research – concern that long term, risky and multi-disciplinary projects were less likely to be embarked upon in case they were not ready for the REF.
  • Interdisciplinarity and Collaboration – concern that the Unit of Assessment panel structures discouraged interdisciplinary research
  • Effect on careers – the requirements of REF may unduly influence the type of research carried out by academics and lead to safe publications and ‘short termism’
  • Simplifying how to capture the Research Environment
  • The definition of Impact
  • The frequency of REF

A detailed blog about the problems and issues with REF 2014 will be published shortly.



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