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The Stern review underlined ‘the essential role of interdisciplinary research in addressing complex problems and research questions posed by global social, economic, ecological and political challenges’.

The four UK higher education funding bodies are committed to supporting and promoting the fair and equitable assessment of all research submitted to the assessment exercise. 

Following publication of the REF Guidance on submissions (2019/01) and Panel criteria and working methods in January 2019 (2019/02), IDAP has produced a report on its work through the criteria-setting phase. This report sets out the panel’s working methods, considerations and advice for the inclusion of interdisciplinary research in REF 2021.

The REF team have produced a summary of all guidance and criteria for interdisciplinary research from the published Guidance on submissions (2019/01) and Panel criteria and working methods (2019/02).

Supporting interdisciplinary research in REF 2021

An underpinning principle of the REF is that all types of research and all forms of research output shall be assessed on a fair and equal basis, including interdisciplinary and collaborative research.

Following advice from the Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP), REF 2021 we will implement the following procedures to support interdisciplinary research further, in addition to the wider enhancements introduced in 2014: 

  • Each sub-panel will have at least two appointed members to oversee and participate in the assessment of interdisciplinary research submitted in that UOA, with a specific role to ensure its equitable assessment. This role will include liaison with corresponding members on other sub-panels.
  • To enable better identification of interdisciplinary research that falls within the oversight of the appointed members described above, an ‘interdisciplinary identifier’ for outputs will be retained in the submission system. This will not be a mandatory field. A definition for, and clearer guidance on its use, has been developed with advice from IDAP.
  • There will be a discrete section in the environment template on the submitting unit’s structures in support of interdisciplinary research. Where units do not have such structures, they should provide a clear rationale as to why structures supporting interdisciplinary research are not appropriate for that unit.

Interdisciplinary Research Protocol

As part of the measures to support the submission and assessment of interdisciplinary research (IDR), The REF team have worked with IDAP and the main panel chairs to develop an assessment protocol for IDR-flagged outputs.