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Executive summary


1. In July 2018, the UK higher education funding bodies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland published a joint consultation on (i) the ‘Draft guidance on submissions’ (REF 2018/01) and (ii) the ‘Draft panel criteria and working methods’ (REF 2018/02) for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 exercise. This document summarises our analysis of the 294 formal responses received.

Key points

2. The ‘Draft guidance on submissions’: set out the draft framework and generic criteria for assessment in REF 2021; specified content, data requirements and related definitions for submissions to REF 2021; and guided higher education institutions (HEIs) on policy and practical matters when preparing submissions. The ‘Draft panel criteria and working methods’ set out the draft assessment criteria and working methods of the main panels and sub-panels for REF 2021.

3. The consultation sought views on the following aspects of, and topics addressed in, the ‘Draft guidance on submissions’ and the ‘Draft panel criteria and working methods’:

  • clarity of the guidance
  • clarity and appropriateness of the assessment criteria
  • staff eligibility
  • equality and diversity (E&D)
  • output eligibility
  • research activity costs for unit of assessment (UOA) 4 (Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience)
  • balance between consistency and allowing for discipline-based differences.

4. The responses informed the final ‘Guidance on submissions’ (REF 2019/01) and the final ‘Panel criteria and working methods’ (REF 2019/02) published in January 2019.

5. Responses broadly welcomed the draft guidance and criteria as clear and appropriate but views were more mixed regarding:

  • proposals relating to staff circumstances
  • the proposal to make ineligible the outputs of former staff who have been made redundant
  • proposed methods to capture research activity costs in UOA 4.

6. Responses expressed broad support for the deeper integration of E&D into REF 2021, although there were requests for further clarity and amendments were suggested in this area.

7. Overall, many responses sought further guidance and clarity, particularly on the following aspects of the guidance:

  • significant responsibility for research
  • staff circumstances
  • continued impact case studies
  • the institutional-level environment pilot
  • cross-referral
  • interdisciplinary research (IDR)
  • panel membership
  • overlaps between research areas within specific UOAs.

Action required

8. This document is for information.