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This page has been updated in accordance with the revised timetable. The full 'Guidance on revisions to REF 2021' following the effects of COVID-19 can be found here.

Citation data

The following sub-panels will make use of citation data to inform their assessment of the quality of research outputs:

Sub-panel 1: Clinical Medicine
Sub-panel 2: Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care
Sub-panel 3: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
Sub-panel 4: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Sub-panel 5: Biological Sciences
Sub-panel 6: Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences
Sub panel 7: Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Sub-panel 8: Chemistry
Sub-panel 9: Physics
Sub-panel 11: Computer Science and Informatics
Sub-panel 16: Economics and Econometrics

Details of how citation data will be used in the assessment are set out in general terms in ‘Guidance on submissions’ at paragraphs 288 to 292. Information on how these sub-panels will make use of citation data to inform their assessment is set out in the ‘Panel criteria and working methods’ at paragraphs 274 to 282.

For HEIs returning data in UOAs where citation data will be used, we are providing a matching service within the submission system to facilitate the matching of research outputs with citation counts.  We are also providing a support service via Clarivate, who are supplying the matching and support service for REF 2021.

The arrangements for collecting and reporting citation data, set out in the supporting information below, apply only to these sub-panels. We will not collect or process citation data for any other sub-panel.

Supporting Information

We have provided the following documents to explain to HEIs how the service will work and what information will be provided at which points in the REF timetable:


Contextual data

Page 4 of the service specification states that ‘Where very few articles, reviews or proceedings papers have been published in a journal category in a particular year, we will not return contextual information. We will decide on the threshold for providing contextual data in consultation with the four UK funding bodies.’ Following discussion with Clarivate, we have agreed not to apply a threshold, and to return all contextual information, even where counts are low. 

Guidance will be produced for the panels, following input from the Forum For Responsible Research Metrics, which will include guidance on interpreting low article counts in particular journal categories, and the effects this can have on the median and mean averages that accompany the contextual data.

Support service

We appreciate that in some circumstances HEIs may need to raise support queries about citation data close to the REF submission deadline. Where the time from the point the query is raised to the submission deadline is shorter than the SLA target for the query, Clarivate will make best endeavours to resolve the query before the deadline. However, we are not able to guarantee that such queries will be resolved by the submission deadline.