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The information on this page will enable institutions to prepare data to import to the REF submission system and provides further details of the data required in submissions, extending the guidance provided in the 'Guidance on submissions' (REF 20019/01) and 'Panel criteria' (REF 2019/02) documents.

The information in these documents may change to reflect any amendments to the submission system, which is currently under development. Any changes will be highlighted in subsequent versions of the documents.

For further information on the REF 2021 Submission system please visit the submission system page.

  • Guidance on import/export file formats

This document provides details of the structure of the import/export file formats, including the names of the tables and fields and details of the expected data types and field lengths. It should be read in conjunction with the ‘Guidance on submissions’ and ‘Panel criteria’.

The import/export file formats have been updated bring them in-line with the submission system. Most of the changes involved the renaming of fields or values.  Some new fields have been added when the implementation of the part of the system required them to be. The postal address details have been removed from the case study contacts as they are no longer required.  The impact case study grants section has been redesigned due to better understanding of the requirements for this section. 

  • Import file templates

Below are template REF import files in XML, JSON and Microsoft Excel formats.

  • Output information requirements

The Excel document below sets out the specific information that will be required for different types of research outputs. This provides additional information to the generic requirements set out in Part 3 Section 2 of the 'Guidance on submissions' and all fields set out in the ‘Guidance on import/export file formats’. 

  • Submission system validation rules

The submission system validation rules have been produced to provide the detailed validation rules for each of the fields.  This document is aimed at developers and users who will be importing data into the system.

  • REF form templates

The Impact case studies template (REF3) and the Unit of assessment level environment template (REF5b) must be submitted as PDF and Word documents. Institutions should use the templates provided, with or without borders. These templates will also be available within the submission system.

The Institutional level environment template (REF5a) will be made available when the pilot panel publishes the final guidance and criteria in summer 2019.

  • Licence agreement

UKRI has agreed a royalty-free licence with the Copyright Licensing Agency to enable access for REF purposes to books, journals, periodicals and conference proceedings purchased by the UK higher education community.

The licence permits the REF team, subject to publishers’ permission and granting access, to access journal articles and conference proceedings directly from publishers' web-sites and provide them to panel members for the purposes of the REF. It also permits HEIs to provide research outputs to the REF team for the purposes of the REF. Where an HEI has a subscription permitting access to the full text of a submitted research output, the HEI is authorised to download the publisher's PDF file for transmission to the REF Team. For research outputs available in print, HEIs may provide scanned or photocopied copies.