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Executive summary

Purpose and key points

1. This document sets out the funding bodies’ decisions on several aspects of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). Our letter accompanying these decisions ‘Initial decisions on REF 2021’ (HEFCE Circular letter 33/2017) sets out further information about the background and about additional aspects of the framework on which we are holding further discussions. This document sets out decisions in relation to the following aspects of the REF:

  • Assessment of output quality, in relation to interdisciplinary research, outputs due for publication after the submission date, and assessment metrics.
  • Collaboration.
  • Harmonised definitions of impact.
  • Assessment of impact.
  • Unit of assessment (UOA)-level environment.
  • Institutional-level assessment.
  • UOA structure.
  • Recruitment of the expert panels.
  • Outcomes and weightings.
  • REF development timetable.

2. This document also:

  • Invites individuals to apply to become sub-panel chairs.
  • Invites organisations and associations with an interest in research to provide updated contact information, in preparation for the nominations process for panel members.

Action required

3. We are updating our list of nominating bodies, ahead of inviting nominations for panel members later in the autumn. The REF 2014 list of nominating bodies is available on the REF website. We will shortly write a letter to organisations on this list, asking them to confirm their interest in nominating panel members and to provide us with up-to-date contact information. Subject associations and other organisations with an interest in research conducted by UK higher education institutions that would like to make nominations but do not receive this letter, should contact us by email at by Friday 15 September 2017.

4. Individuals wishing to apply to become sub-panel chairs should refer to the particulars available at Annex B. Applications are due by noon on Wednesday 11 October 2017.

5. Higher education institutions and other groups and organisations with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research are invited to provide their views on the proposed approaches to the submission of staff and output portability, and the eligibility of institutions to participate in the REF. Further information is set out in HEFCE Circular letter 33/2017.

Annex A: Unit of Assessment structure for REF 2021

Download the Annex A: Unit of Assessment structure for REF 2021 as PDF (13 KB)

Annex B: Sub-panel chairs – further particulars for applicants

Download the Annex B: Sub-panel chairs – further particulars for applicants as PDF (231 KB)