The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions that has been used to distribute HEFCE quality-related research (QR) funding from 2015-16. The REF replaced the previous assessment exercise, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) carried out in 2008.
REF 2014 was conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL). The results of the first REF were published in December 2014, with an assessment period between 01 January 2008 and 31 December 2013.
REF 2014 was structured with 36 discipline based expert sub-panels (Units of Assessment-UoA) working under the guidance of four main panels. Assessment was largely based on peer-review, informed by metrics for some disciplines. Each submission to a single UoA consisted of five forms (datasets) covering staff data, research outputs, impact, environment data and an environment narrative.
A quality profile, similar to that used in the 2008 RAE was used to identify the proportion of activity reaching each of four defined ‘starred’ quality levels. The UoA quality profiles were reported as a percentage of research activity in the submission within each UoA deemed to meet each of the defined levels of quality. The overall quality profile was comprised of the aggregate of the weighted sub-profiles produced for research outputs (65%), research environment (15%), and impact indicators (20%).
- Research Outputs - assessed by peer review, informed (where appropriate) by citation information
- Impact - assessed the benefits of the research undertaken on economy and society
- Environment - considered the research strategy, infrastructure and environment, including research income and research degrees awarded
The results of the REF, along with analyses and overview reports were published in December 2014. The College’s overall REF results, along with the results of the individual sub-profiles can be accessed through the link below.
Following the publication of the REF results, a number of reports were also released in 2015 that provided further information on various aspects of the REF. These can be accessed through the links below.
In January 2016, the Government announced an independent review of the REF led by Lord Nicholas Stern to examine how university research funding can be allocated more efficiently so that universities can focus on carrying out world-leading research. A consultation ran from 27th January until 24th March where views were sought on the future shape of REF. The consultation document, along with the College’s response to the consultation can be accessed through the links below.
The responses to the consultation are currently being analysed by the review, reporting to the government in the summer. The next REF is expected to take place in 2021.
REF 2021 Consultation March 2018 (pdf)
Open Access (OA)
There will be an open access requirement for the next REF applying to all journal articles and conference papers accepted for publication from 1 April 2016. More information can be accessed through the links below.