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Executive Summary

Key points

The independent review of REF 2014 chaired by Lord Stern noted concerns within the research community regarding interdisciplinary research (IDR): it was perceived to have been disadvantaged at assessment. Analysis of the assessment demonstrated that this had not been the case. However the lower proportion of IDR submitted relative to what might have been expected suggested low confidence within the community of fair treatment for IDR. The report recommended that structures should be implemented to support submission and assessment of IDR in REF 2021.

IDAP was appointed to provide expert advice and recommendations to ensure equitable treatment of IDR in REF 2021. The chair of the panel is Professor Dame Athene Donald, and panel members were appointed on the basis of relevant expertise. An underpinning principle for the panel’s work was that IDR should be neither advantaged nor disadvantaged for assessment in the REF.

IDAP considered relevant evidence and made a number of recommendations regarding inclusion of IDR in REF 2021.

Summary of recommendations

IDAP will produce a final report following the end of the assessment phase, having undertaken evaluation of IDR assessment in REF 2021, and making final recommendations for future IDR research assessment. In reflecting on its work throughout the criteria development phase, the panel identified the following areas for which it made interim recommendations for the future:

  • Earlier appointment of IDR advisory panel, for input into consultation and initial decisions
  • Earlier engagement with main panel chairs following appointment. This will allow a period for building a common agreement of goals before the main and sub-panels start work on criteria development
  • Briefing/induction process for IDR advisers and main panel members, to inform background, expectations and opportunities for input and involvement
  • Direct engagement with sub-panel members at an early stage in criteria development, to enable an open dialogue with panel representatives to test and inform assessment principles
  • Ongoing engagement with panel members throughout criteria development, including meetings of the IDR network as forum for dialogue and information sharing.