What is the REF?
The Research Excellence Framework 2014 (or REF) was a government exercise to assess the quality and impact of UK universities’ research in all disciplines.
What was the exercise for?
The REF is to help the four UK higher education funding bodies distribute about £2 billion per year of research funding across the UK selectively on the basis of research quality. It was carried out on their behalf by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
What were universities asked to submit?
All higher education institutions were invited to submit up to 36 units of assessment (UOAs) or disciplines in November 2013.
Each submission in each UOA contains information on the following:
Information on staff in post and holding an eligible contract on 31 October 2013 for whom research outputs were submitted;
Up to four publications and other forms of assessable output produced during the publication period (1 January 2008 to 31 December 2013) for each selected member of staff
A description of the submitted unit's approach during the assessment period (1 January 2008 to 31 July 2013) to enabling impact from its research, and case studies describing specific examples of impacts achieved during the assessment period;
Data about research doctoral degrees awarded and research income (for the period 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2013), and a description of the institution's research environment (relating to the period 1 January 2008 to 31 July 2013).
How were the submissions assessed?
Submissions were assessed by expert sub-panels of academics and users of research for each UOA, working under the guidance of four main panels.
Sub-panels applied sets of assessment criteria and level definitions specific to each main panel, to produce an overall quality profile for each submission in each UOA. The outcomes were published in December 2014.
The quality profile comprised three key elements:
- Outputs (65%)
the quality of research outputs - mainly publications such as papers, journal articles and books.
- Impact (20%)
the impact of research which considered change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.
- Environment (15%)
the vitality and sustainability of the research environment which considered the strategy, resources and infrastructure that support research, including research income and research degrees awarded.
What is the REF marking scheme?
The Research Excellence Framework 2014 assessed research based on the following definitions of starred levels:
|4*||World-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.|
|3*||Internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.|
|2*||Recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.|
|1*||Recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.|
|Unclassified (u/c)||Falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.|
More information is available from the REF website.