As part of the College’s commitment to supporting equality and diversity in REF, the College has put in place safe and supportive structures for staff to declare information about any equality-related circumstances that may have affected their ability to research productively during the assessment period (1 January 2014 – 31 July 2020), and particularly their ability to produce research outputs at the same rate as staff not affected by circumstances. 

FAQs - REF special circumstances

Which special circumstances are considered?

Applicable circumstances are:

  • Qualifying as an Early Career Researcher (started career as an independent researcher on or after 1 August 2016)
  • Absence from work due to secondments or career breaks outside the HE sector
  • Qualifying periods of family-related leave
  • Junior clinical academics who have not gained a Certificate of Completion of Training by 31 July 2020
  • Disability (including chronic conditions)
  • Ill heath, injury or mental health conditions
  • Constraints relating to family leave that fall outside of the standard allowances
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Gender reassignment

Why are you collecting this information?

The purpose of collecting this information is threefold:

  1. To enable staff who have not been able to produce a REF-eligible output during the assessment period to be entered into REF where they have:

    circumstances that have resulted in an overall period of 46 months or more absence from research during the assessment period, due to equality-related circumstances (see below)
    circumstances equivalent to 46 months or more absence from research due to equality-related circumstances
    two or more qualifying periods of family-related leave.

  2. To recognise the effect that equality-related circumstances can have on an individual’s ability to research productively, and to adjust expectations in terms of expected workload / production of research outputs.

  3. To establish whether there are any Units of Assessment where the proportion of declared circumstances is sufficiently high to warrant a request to the higher education funding bodies for a reduced required number of outputs to be submitted.

Do I have to disclose this information? Who will have access to this information?

Staff are in no way obliged to complete the REF special circumstances form or disclose any circumstance if they do not wish to do so.

If you choose to complete the form, you will be providing your written consent for the information to be considered, on a confidential and sensitive basis, by the College’s REF Equality Committee.  No further use will  be made of this form, and this will not be seen by anyone other than members of the REF Equality Committee and the College central REF team.

If the College decides to apply to the funding bodies for either form of reduction of outputs (removal of ‘minimum of one’ requirement or unit circumstances), we will need to provide UKRI with data that you have disclosed about your individual circumstances, to show that the criteria have been met for reducing the number of outputs (see Guidance on Submissions, paragraphs 151-201, for more detail).

Submitted data will be kept confidential to the REF team, the REF Equality Committee, the Research England REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel, and main panel chairs. All these bodies are subject to confidentiality arrangements. The REF team will destroy the submitted data about individuals’ circumstances on completion of the assessment phase.

What are the benefits of declaring special circumstances?

For REF 2021, the number of outputs required in any submitted UoA is determined by multiplying the unit’s total FTE by 2.5 and a minimum of one output is required for each submitted staff member. The REF team recognises that there will be instances in which some special circumstances may have affected the ability of staff to research productively during the REF assessment period. Therefore, to support and promote equality in research careers, the REF team has put in place processes designed to recognise the effect of individual’s circumstances on their ability to produce research outputs. Declaring special circumstances will:

  • Support the College with the reduction request process, either with requesting a reduction for the total number of research outputs at the level of the unit of assessment, or requesting to have the minimum of one requirement removed at an individual level. Either form of reduction request will only be prompted by the voluntary declaration of circumstances by staff.
  • Allow the College to be made aware of the effect of equality-related circumstances on one’s ability to research productively and adjust expectations.

How do I declare special circumstances?

If you wish to disclose any circumstances, please complete this online form. This form will be sent directly to the College Deputy Director (Organisational Development and Inclusion).

Please use the online form in the first instance. If needed, a paper version of the online form is available via REF Individual circumstances form (WORD).

What is the internal deadline to declare special circumstances?

The internal deadline to declare special circumstances is 31 January 2020.

What if my circumstances change?

The College recognises that staff circumstances may change between completion of the declaration form and the census date (31 July 2020). If this is the case, then staff should contact the Deputy Director, Organisational Development and Inclusion to provide the updated information.