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Labelling physical outputs

Each individual output must be labelled to enable efficient identification, cataloguing and dispatch of outputs to panels. The REF team will provide a report on the submission system entitled 'outputs to be provided to the warehouse' which will generate the required labels. The report will be available with the next system update. This report will print onto Avery type L7165 labels: 99.1mm x 67.7mm.

If an institution wishes to produce its own labels it must not:

  • Include any additional information
  • Re-order the information
  • Use anything other than black text
  • Use font sizes smaller than 18pt Arial for the UOA number and UK Provider Reference Number (UKPRN) and 14pt Arial for the remainder of the label.

The labels should be affixed to prominently to each output (eg. the front cover). Where HEIs do not wish to affix a label directly the output, items may be placed into clear flexible plastic covers. It is recommended that HEIs use library book covers for output types A, B, C, and R.

Items which are too small to accommodate the label (for example, a USB) should be placed within a container (e.g. an envelope or folder) that is labelled as above. The item itself should also be labelled with the following information to enable identification of the item if it is separated from its container: UOA number; UKPRN; surname and initials of attributed staff member. Smaller font sizes may be used for these labels.

Labels should be placed on the cases of CDs/DVDs rather than directly on the CDs/DVDs themselves, as labels can interfere with the function of the device. Where the CD/DVD cannot be clearly identified without the case, the UOA number, UKPRN, surname and initials of staff member should be written onto the CD/DVD using a black indelible marker. Where an HEI is not able to mark a CD/DVD, the output may be placed into a container (e.g. an envelope or a folder) and labelled as above.

Where an output comprises multiple physical items (for example, a multi-component output, or a single-item output supported by contextual information), these should be packaged together in a single labelled container. To enable identification of all items if separated from their container, HEIs should also label each individual item in the same way as small items, wherever it would not be visibly obvious to which output the item relates.

Preparing packages for delivery

HEIs should pack outputs in cardboard boxes/packing crates.  Plastic boxes should not be used, as they are prone to crack during transit, leaving outputs susceptible to damage. HEIs should ensure that appropriate packing material is included to prevent damage to outputs.

Outputs submitted in the same UOA should be bundled together in the same package(s) where practicable. HEIs may include the outputs of more than one UOA in a single box, where the box can contain the entirety of outputs for each UOA packed in it. Outputs should be packed in order (e.g. by output number) as far as possible.

All packages should display the UKPRN, name of institution and the relevant UOA(s) on the outside. Outputs may be packed and delivered as institutions deem appropriate to ensure they arrive in an assessable state. The REF team will only accept responsibility for loss or damage of any research output once it has been received*. Institutions should make appropriate arrangements to cover for loss or damage of their items while in transit to the library.

* Please remember that outputs of great rarity or value should not be deposited.


All outputs should be sent to:

REF 2021 Library

Dominions House

Lime Kiln Close

Stoke Gifford


BS34 8SR

The REF2021 library is accessible by Royal Mail and courier delivery van. Deliveries may be made by regular mail but must arrive on the scheduled date. Deliveries of large items and deliveries by courier may be made at any time between 09:30 and 16:30 on the scheduled date. The REF team will be co-ordinating the arrival of deliveries from a number of institutions each day, therefore please email to confirm once your outputs have left your institution. Please include a tracking number and contact number for the delivery company where possible. We recognise that couriers may not always deliver on the day that has been agreed with the HEI; the provision of tracking number will allow the REF team to investigate with the delivery company should the delivery not arrive on the allocated date.

Institutions who have opted to deliver outputs in batches should follow the same procedure for each delivery.

The costs of initial delivery to the library will be borne by institutions, but the REF team will pay for the cost of returning outputs to institutions at the end of the assessment phase. Physical outputs will be returned to institutions in spring 2022.  

 Joint submissions

Outputs for joint submissions may be packaged and delivered by any of the institutions making the joint submission, and HEIs may divide the delivery of outputs between institutions as they deem appropriate. However, all outputs submitted as part of a joint submission must be labelled with the UKPRN and name of the lead institution.

Contingency Measures

Where an institution has uploaded an electronic output and changes it to a physical output during the correction period, the physical copy should be returned where possible with the HEI’s delivery to the REF library. These outputs should be labelled in the format outlined in ‘Labelling Physical Outputs’.

Physical handling of outputs to limit transmission of COVID-19

Institutions should be aware of and follow current government guidance for minimising transmission in the workplace. This includes following current national guidance, as well as any additional guidance that is in place in your local area.  For further information, see .