Review of Research Excellence Framework published

The independent review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) – Building on Success and Learning from Experience has now been published.


The review was led by Lord Stern, President of the British Academy, and gives several key recommendations for the way in which future REFs are carried out, including:

  • All research-active staff should submit to the next REF; this will provide a more accurate picture of an institution’s research
  • Outputs should be submitted at disciplinary-based Unit of Assessment level, with a set average number per full time employee, with flexibility for some colleagues to submit more or less than others
  • Outputs should be submitted by the institution at which they were generated, ie, if an academic moves institution, his or her output is not transferable to the new institution
  • Institutions should be given great flexibility to showcase their multi- and inter-disciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies
  • Impact case studies should be broader and deeper, to include impact on areas such as government policy, public engagement and understanding, cultural life, academic impacts outside the field, and teaching
  • A new, institutional-level Environment assessment should include details of an institution’s future research environment strategy, outlining its support for high quality research and related activities, interdisciplinary and inter-institutional initiatives, and impact
  • To reduce the cost of gathering information for submission, where possible REF data and metrics should be open, standardised and combinable with other research funders’ data collection.

Responding to the review, Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands said: “This review should lead to a more representative system, with hopefully reduced red tape and costs – essential when the sector needs to be concentrating on research rather than admin to sustain our international position following the EU Referendum vote.

“Two recommendations are particularly eye-catching.

“First, that all research active staff should be returned in the REF, albeit with flexibility around the number of case studies submitted by each individual. I hope this will underline the contribution that all our research staff can make to the REF and provide an opportunity to showcase our strength across the whole of the University.

“Second, that the credit for research should stay with the institution, rather than follow the researcher. This should end any possibility of institutions “gaming” the system by tactically hiring high performing staff shortly before submission and thereby benefitting from research carried out elsewhere.

 “For Leeds specifically, there is much in here that chimes with our priorities. Lord Stern stresses that there should be more flexibility to showcase interdisciplinarity – a key area of focus for us and a real strength for a university of our size and breadth. He also recommends introduction of institutional Environment assessments, which comes as we invest significantly in people and infrastructure, including University Academic Fellows, PhD studentships, senior academics, and £520m in the campus. This will all increase our research capacity and capability.

“More generally I am pleased that the report highlights both the importance of the dual support system as a key driver of research strength and the vital relationship between teaching and research, we have emphasised the latter point in relation to the higher education reforms that are now making their way through Parliament.”

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