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The funding bodies conducted a contingency review at the end of October, to consider the level of disruption related to COVID-19. The review looked at effects for both universities’ submission activity and the forthcoming period of assessment by the REF panels, and whether any further contingency measures are required for REF 2021 

The review concluded there should be no further changes to the submission deadline, but that some further steps are needed to mitigate specific issues identified. These include challenges in preparing both hard copy outputs and income-in-kind data for return. The funding bodies have also identified a further set of issues that will be kept under close review in the lead up to the submission deadline and during the subsequent assessment phase. 

A review of REF contingency arrangements was announced in June 2020, when the revised submission deadline of March 2021 was put in place. This reflected the context of ongoing uncertainty about the effects of COVID-19. 

The review outcomes are reported in a letter to universities participating in REF. The letter also provides guidance for universities on specific issues identified through the review, and on further technical aspects of submission. 

Steven Hill, Director of Research at Research England and Chair of the REF Steering Group (which conducted the review), said:  

‘We looked at risks around submission and assessment, both at the current level of COVID disruption, and in the event of increased measures. This clearly highlighted the areas where more guidance is needed now and other areas that we’ll need to keep under review. However, in general we found evidence that submissions are progressing broadly on track for the revised March deadline, and noted a range of contingency measures that are being put in place by institutions to further minimise the risks.