Overview of REF 2014

What is the REF?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the peer review assessment of the quality of research taking place at eligible UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that will be used to distribute HEFCE quality-related research (QR) funding from 2015-16. It replaces the results of the previous Research Assessment Exercise (RAE2008).

When did REF 2014 take place?

The assessment period for REF 2014 was 01 January 2008 to 31 December 2013. The College made its REF 2014 submission to HEFCE by 29 November 2013, the REF panel assessment took place during 2014 and the results were published on 18 December 2014.

What was included in the submissions to REF 2014?

Each submission to a single UoA consisted of five forms covering staff data, research outputs, impact, environment data and an environment narrative. For further information, please see the information on the content of the 2014 REF submission.

Who do I contact in the College about REF 2014?

Please see the Contacts page.

Where can I find information on previous REFs?

REF 2014 is the first Research Excellence Framework. REF 2014 replaces the results of the Research Assessment Exercise 2008 (RAE08).

Was teaching assessed in REF?


For further information please see the HEFCE FAQs.


What were Imperial's results in REF 2014?

The results received by Imperial College London in REF 2014 can be accessed from the results page of this website. Full analysis of the College's overall results and the results for each unit of assessment are available to staff and students in the analysis section.

How are the results presented? What is a Quality Profile?

The REF 2014 outcomes are expressed similarly to those of the 2008 RAE, with a quality profile identifying the proportion of activity reaching each of four defined 'starred' quality levels.  The REF 2014 quality profiles are rounded to the nearest 1%, unlike the 2008 RAE quality profiles which are rounded to the nearest 5%.

The UoA quality profiles are 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 comprises the aggregate of the weighted profiles produced for research outputs, research environment, and impact indicators.

For an example of the Quality Profile see the full details of the Assessment methodology.

What are the definitions for each of the Star Ratings in the Quality Profile?

Star ratings explained
Star levelDefinition
4* Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
2* Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
1* Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
Unclassified Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of assessment.
Star ratings explanation

When will the College know how the REF outcomes will affect the research funding it receives from HEFCE?

The financial consequences of the REF 2014, in the form of HEFCE’s allocations of funding for research, were announced in March 2015. Further details can be found on the Funding Council website.


What was returned in Imperial's REF 2014 submission?

The content of the REF 2014 submission was comprised of datasets, known as forms. View the complete structure of the 2014 REF submission.

Which Units of Assessment (UoAs) did the College submit to?

The complete submission constituted individual submissions to each of the UoAs relevant to College.  Read the description of all the UoAs in REF 2014.

When was the submission deadline?

The deadline for submissions to HEFCE for REF 2014 was 29 November 2013.

Assessment process and panels

How was the assessment carried out?

The assessment of REF 2014 took place using peer review - academic experts in the discipline were responsible for assessing the submissions alongside research users who provided additional input to the assessment of impact.

Who were the decision makers in the REF 2014? Who made up the panels/sub-panels?

The list of panel members is available on the Funding Councils REF website.

What was a Main Panel?

A main panel was a group of expert researchers representing a broad discipline area to lead and oversee the conduct of the constituent sub-panels under its remit. The 4 main panels (A-D) consisted of a main panel chair, the sub-panel chair from the constituent sub-panels plus additional expert members. Main panels were responsible for setting the REF 2014 criteria and working methods, ensuring consistency and adherence to the criteria across sub-panels, and signing-off the assessment outcomes.

Who were the Observers?

Observers were members from key stakeholder groups who sat on main panels and provided informal advice.

What were the Sub-Panels?

The sub-panels were 36 groups of expert assessors representing discrete discipline areas (UoAs). Subpanels consisted of a sub-panel chair, members and additional assessors (academics and research users). Sub-panels were responsible for drafting the REF 2014 criteria and working methods, the preliminary assessment of submissions and for providing recommendations on starred quality profiles to main panels.

In what circumstances would a panel member have declared they had an interest?

REF 2014 panel and sub-panel members did not participate in the assessment of departments or institutions where it might have been perceived that they were open to external influences. Examples of such cases would have included employment of him/herself and/or an immediate family member with the institution being assessed during the assessment period.

When did the Panel Meetings take place?

  • Early 2011: Criteria setting
  • Mid 2011: Guidance on Submissions published
  • Late 2011: Panel Criteria and Methods published
  • December 2012: Deadline for Survey of HEIs’ Submission Intentions
  • Mid-Late 2013: Panels meet to prepare for assessment
  • 2014: Panels assess submissions

Key documentation

Research outputs

During what timescale did outputs have to be produced for them to be eligible for submission in the REF 2014?

Publications and other forms of assessable research outputs must have entered the public domain (with the exception of confidential outputs) in the period between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2013.

Did the College have to provide the actual outputs? In what format did they have to be available?

Journal articles and conference proceedings were provided electronically, either by the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) or attached PDF in the REF 2014 submission system. All other outputs were made available in hard copy to reach the Funding Council by 9 December 2013. Further information is available on the Funding Councils' REF 2014 website.


What is impact in REF 2014?

Impact is an effect, change or benefit outside of academia which has resulted from academic research. Some examples of impact are generating revenue or employment in a business, changes in policy and changes in quality of life. However HEFCE emphasised that institutions should interpret impact as broadly as possible.

How was impact assessed in REF 2014?

Each UoA was required to submit a number of case studies (one per 10 FTE submitted with a minimum of 2), which describe a specific impact or group of related impacts which have resulted from research (of at least 2* quality) at the College. Each UoA also submitted an Impact Template, which described the unit's overall approach to impact.

Acronyms for the REF

DELNI Department of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland
FTE Full Time Equivalent
HEFCE Higher Education Funding Council for England
HEFCW Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
HEI Higher Education Institution
HESA Higher Education Statistics Agency
RA Research Assistant
RAE Research Assessment Exercise
REF Research Excellence Framework
RO Research Outputs
SFC Scottish Funding Council
UoA Unit of Assessment
Acronyms for the RAE