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31 January 2019

The REF 2021 ‘Guidance on submissions’ and ‘Panel criteria’, supplemented by a series of FAQs, are now available on the REF 2021 website. Resulting from an extended period of consultation and discussion, they provide UK HEIs with detailed guidance and information in order to support the strongest possible submissions of research and impact for expert assessment by the REF panels in 2021. Members of Main Panel D, comprising the chairs of Sub-Panels 25-34, interdisciplinary and international members, and research users, have worked closely with the REF team and with the other REF main panels to finalise these documents. The consultation exercise, which ran from July to October 2018, was particularly helpful in ensuring that the concerns of the research community were addressed. This has been a collaborative process from the beginning, as it has been a priority to ensure the greatest possible consistency in our approach, across all areas of research.

One reason for this collaborative approach is an increased emphasis on robust processes for the assessment of interdisciplinary research in REF 2021. This is a significant issue for Main Panel D, as it is for all of the REF main panels. The outlined methodology, defined with the help of the REF Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP), is designed to give the academic community full confidence in the evaluation of such work (‘Panel criteria’, paras 166-169; 199; 390-398). Ensuring the effectiveness of equality and diversity measures, overseen by the REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP), has also been a priority. Feedback from the research community and from sub-panels has been helpful in arriving at the guidance provided (‘Guidance on submissions’, paras 156-201) to facilitate the composition of strong codes of practice, and the implementation of the safe and supportive processes which will enable staff members to make voluntary declarations of their individual circumstances, to be taken into account in terms of their ability to contribute to the output pool.

For a number of the disciplines associated with Main Panel D, the appropriate identification of double-weighted outputs will be key to the submission process. The main panel has given careful thought to the guidance provided to institutions to support their selection of double-weighted outputs (‘Panel criteria’, paragraphs 244-247). The provision of detailed information in relation to the submission of practice research is also based on extensive consultation, and here the role of Practice Research Advisory Group (PRAG-UK) has been especially valuable. Annex C (‘Panel criteria’) supplies a list of output types and submission guidance in relation to Main Panel D, and should be consulted alongside Annex K (‘Guidance on submissions’), which provides an outputs glossary and list of collection formats.

Throughout the drafting of the ‘Guidance on submissions’ and ‘Panel criteria’, our aim has been to help colleagues to understand the aims and processes of REF 2021, whether or not they have experience of previous research assessment exercises. We want to ensure that all HEIs have the opportunity to present the breadth and depth of their achievements to the very best effect, and we are looking forward to assessing the absorbing research and impact that will be coming our way.