Initial decisions on REF 2021

Latest news on REF 2021

  • outputs – 60 per cent
  • impact – 25 per cent
  • environment – 15 per cent

Read full details on the initial decisions here:,332017/




Update on the consultation for REF 2021

On 19 July HEFCE held a webinar providing updates on REF 2021 policy developments related to the submission of staff and output portability. You can read two blogs (links provided below) which contain full details of the developments. Here are the main points:

Staff Submission

UK funding bodies

  • Accept Stern’s view that all academic staff who have any significant responsibility to undertake research should be returned to the REF and intend to take an inclusive approach
  • But also recognise that there is no clear alternative to easily identify staff with a significant responsibility to undertake research

Based on the above, HEIs are given two options in relation to staff submission:

  1. 100% of staff submission – straightforward, no burden associated with staff selectivity
  2. Institutional identification of staff who are not required to carry out research and hence not submitting those staff members – high burden in terms of high selectivity and documentation. an auditable evidence will need to be provided where there is no expectation to undertake research (e.g. career pathway or workload model)
Portability or non-portability of research

Funding bodies are putting forward the following models:

  1. Both, ‘old’ and ‘new’ institutions would have credit for an output, i.e. the institution where the research output was demonstrably generated and at which the member of staff was employed would be able to retain full credit. However, the credit would also go to the new institution.
  2. Hybrid model,  limited non-portability from a set point in time. This is complicated(!): a date will be set from which new rules will apply. This means there will be 2 rules in operation depending on whether the academic moved before or after the set date.

– If they move before the set date, they can take their outputs with them and only the new institution can claim these outputs (full portability, as in REF 2014).

– If they move after the set date they will be able to take a limited number of outputs (probably max of 2, tbc).

– Any other outputs could be submitted by the institution where an academic was employed when the output was first publicly made available.  

 Next steps
  • The proposals concerning both staff selectivity and the portability of outputs remain loose and require clarity and precision
  • HEFCE will initiate a period of discussion with institutions about the precise wording of the broad proposals provided above
  • Initial decisions on these issues will come out in autumn

Please visit the following blogs for the full details:

Interdisciplinary Research

As mentioned in our previous blog the report on UoA 34 mentions that Art & Design (UoA 34) proved itself as a leader in interdisciplinary research. In REF 2014 interdisciplinarity emerged as a distinct and a growing phenomenon, particularly within areas of product and digital design, film, curatorship, media studies, conceptual and performance based art practice.

An interesting point for reflection is that although Art & Design (UoA 34) did feature a significant volume of interdisciplinary research it was not identified as such by the submitting HEIs.

Professor Judith Petts, Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive, University of Plymouth distinguishes several important factors that can impede or encourage interdisciplinary research. Please refer to HEFCE blog for the full article.

The policy landscape
  • Interdisciplinary outputs in REF 2014 were rated equally well to mono- disciplinary ones
  • Despite the fact that the academic community values interdisciplinary research, many would not advise an early-career researcher to participate before they had established their own disciplinary credentials.
Working away from home
  • Working away from your discipline can be somewhat uncomfortable
General complexities

related to:

  • a large team working across different sites, organisations or sectors; or
  • funders and publishers guiding and sourcing reviewers with the skills and diversity of understanding to ensure robust and effective peer review of interdisciplinary proposals and work
  • Culture and structure of the academic organisations

There is a real opportunity to promote the research landscape that delivers and facilitates interdisciplinary research that addresses complex socio-economic and more global challenges.

Read more below about interdisciplinarity in Stern review and in HEFCE consultation  Continue reading “Interdisciplinary Research”

A moment for REFlection

We’ve spent a good part of the past few months discussing the proposals with a wide range of people and organisations – thank you all for your willingness to engage and share your ideas. We’ve already shared a lot of the feedback we’ve heard so far. We’ll now pause for breath as we focus on…

via A moment for REFlection — HEFCE blog

Who is research-active? – A key question for the future of research assessment

On 8 December last year, the UK higher education funding bodies launched the consultation setting out proposals for implementing the Stern recommendation on the next REF. Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about the proposals, including at the consultation events. Through these, and at other engagements, quite a lot of people have…

via Who is research-active? – A key question for the future of research assessment — HEFCE blog

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”