What’s this thing called REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions

Primary purpose of REF: QR funding allocation

►4 UK HE Funding bodies allocate approximately £2bn per annum
►To ensure ‘a dynamic and internationally competitive UK research sector’
►To contribute to ‘economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge’
►Institutional strategy development
►Response to emerging new areas

search-bar-image What’s QR Funding?

Public funding for Higher Education research is administered under a ‘dual support’ system. Under this system, research infrastructure is funded through a grant called Quality Related (QR) funding, and specific research projects are funded through UK Research Councils through a bidding process.

Other purposes of REF

Continue reading “What’s this thing called REF?”


Awarding ‘Extra Points’

As I mentioned in my previous post HEFCE intends to give ‘extra REF points’ to the institutions which publish outputs other than journal articles and conference proceedings on the open access basis. I had a conversation with Amy Robinson, Repository Manager at UCA and our initial thoughts are that we generally agree with HEFCE’s proposition as long as the extra points are awarded to all types of research outputs submitted to REF, including non text based outputs.  If the extra points only apply to text-based outputs, such as monographs, this will unfairly disadvantage specialist arts institutions and will marginalize and disincentive open access. 54% of UCA’s outputs in the last REF were practice-based outputs!

We also support the proposal because the existing REF Open Access requirement in relation to journal articles and conference papers has complicated UCA’s internal advocacy for Open Access for all types of outputs and caused confusion to researchers.  We need to provide a clear, simple and consistent message to our researchers that values Open Access to all of their research.

There needs to be a very clear guidance about what constitutes ‘Open Access’ for non text based outputs, and REF could provide some useful clarification on this, e.g. the need for visual documentation, and not just metadata.

Monographs and Open Access

We said in our previous blog that monographs and other long-form research outputs need not be available in an open-access form to be eligible for REF 2021 submission. However, it seems like we will be moving towards open-access requirement for monographs in the following REF (REF 2028?). HEFCE has flagged this intention in the consultation document (Annex C).





REF 2021 Consultation: key proposals

Consultation on the Research Excellence Framework, following Lord Stern’s recommendations on REF has been published.  The sector has until 17th March 2017 to respond to 44 questions in the consultation, and the new rules are to be finalised in the summer 2017

HEFCE’s consultation seeks responses about the implementation of Stern’s proposals in the next exercise with the intention of reducing the burden associated with the REF process while maintaining high standards in research excellence.

Key proposals

  • All ‘research active’ staff (defined by HESA codes of “research only” and “research and teaching”) should be submitted to the REF
  • Outputs should be decoupled from staff
  • Research outputs should no longer be portable across institutions
  • Institutional level impact case study should be introduced
All ‘research active’ staff should be submitted to REF 2021

Whilst 100% of staff return would provide a fuller picture of the research activity, remove the burden of staff selectivity and take away the stigma attached to the staff not submitted to REF, it may be technically problematic to use HESA codes to capture all staff with responsibility to undertake research. HESA definition for ‘research active’ includes research assistants and therefore HEFCE proposes that a measure of independence is also included in the definition of research-active staff. This approach would potentially deliver a more accurate picture, but would also mean going back towards staff selection and identifying individual staff circumstances, which was highly time consuming and burdensome in REF2014. Also, some comments suggest that contracts of employment may start changing (e.g. ‘teaching only’ contracts) to determine staff eligibility for REF submission. Continue reading “REF 2021 Consultation: key proposals”

REF 2021 Timetable

Proposed timetable for REF 2021 is as follows:

tbc in July 2017

1 August 2013 Start of period for income and impacts
1 January 2014 Start of period for outputs
17 March 2017 Consultation Deadline
Mid 2017 Publish initial decisions on next REF
Mid 2017 Appoint panel chairs Continue reading “REF 2021 Timetable”