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Individual staff circumstances (REF1b)

The information on this page was published whilst the exercise was being conducted; this material is provided for background information only and will not be updated.

Further FAQs relating to individual staff circumstances can be found on ECU's web-site. 

Latest FAQs (October 2013)

If an individual is entitled to a reduction in outputs, must they be submitted with the reduced number of outputs?
If an individual is entitled to a reduction in outputs due to individual staff circumstances, they may be submitted with more than the minimum number of outputs required. Any submitted member of staff may have four outputs listed against them irrespective of their circumstances.
Can we submit a double weighted output for an individual if they have individual staff circumstances which would allow them to submit one output only?
Yes. However, if you request double-weighting for the output, you are effectively choosing to submit two outputs for the individual. If the double-weighting request is rejected and there is no reserve, the 'missing' output will be unclassified. Alternatively the HEI could choose to enter a single output without double-weighting.

Previous FAQs

Can a reduction of 2 outputs for junior clinical academic staff who have not gained their Certificate of Completion of Training by 31 October 2013 be combined with a reduction for being an Early Career Researcher (ECR)?

A reduction of two outputs for junior clinical academic staff who have not gained their Certificate of Completion of Training takes account of significant constraints on research work, and is normally sufficient to also take account of additional circumstances that may have affected the individual's research work (including ECR status). Where a junior clinical academic also qualified as an ECR between August 2009 and July 2011 a reduction of two outputs would generally be considered sufficient. If you wish to return the individual with an output reduction of more than two, this should be returned via the complex route with clear explanation as to why a greater reduction would be justified.

If a junior clinical academic staff member first satisfied the definition of an ECR on or after 1 August 2011, they would be eligible for a reduction of 3 outputs as an ECR.

Paragraph 79i of the 'Guidance on submissions' refers to staff who hold more than one contract for different functions within a submitting HEI. Who might this apply to? And how many outputs should be returned for such staff?
HEI staff in managerial positions, for example, might not hold a contract with a primary employment function of 'research' or 'teaching and research'. In such cases, in order to be eligible for the REF, the individual would be required to hold a separate fractional contract which does satisfy the eligibility criteria (at paragraph 78 of 'guidance on submissions'). They would not be entitled to a reduction in the number of outputs on the grounds that they have a fractional contract for research. Any output reduction should be made in accordance with the guidance provided in paragraphs 64-91 of the 'panel criteria'.
Can the number of outputs be reduced for time spent working on a teaching-only (or other non-research) contract within the higher education sector?
Time spent working within the higher education sector is not accepted as an 'absence' for the purposes of allowing a reduction in outputs. The only exception to this is where an individual had a change in contraced duties (for example, to a teaching-only contract) due to a complex circumstance or protected characteristic. Please see examples 26 and 27 of the ECU’s complex circumstances.
If an individual works part-time for a number of HEIs, how many outputs should they be submitted with?

Where an individual works or worked part-time for a number of HEIs, then each of the HEIs submitting the individual will need to calculate if they are entitled to a reduction in outputs. A reduction in outputs may be made for the amount of time (calculated in months) in which the individual was not working in the HE sector, over the whole of the REF period. A reduction may not be made on the basis that the individual worked part-time at other HEIs. 

Each HEI returning the individual (with a fractional FTE) will need to submit the number of outputs required of that individual. The same outputs may, but need not be, listed in each HEI's submission.

If individual circumstances apply to the individual, the number of outputs may be reduced in all submissions in which the individual is returned. If research outputs are 'missing' without a qualifying individual circumstance, the 'missing' outputs will be recorded as 'unclassified'.

For example:

An individual has worked 0.5FTE at HEI A, and 0.3FTE at HEI B, for the whole of the REF period (1 January 2008, up to the census date 31 Octo0ber 2013). The individual did not work at any other HEI for the remaining 0.2FTE.

The number of outputs may be reduced as follows:

  • 70 months working in HE at a total of 0.8FTE
  • The equivalent number of months 'absent' from HE = 70 x 0.2FTE = 14 months 'absent'
  • This entitles the individual to a reduction of 1 output.

HEI A may return the individual at 0.5FTE, in which case 3 outputs are required.

HEI B may return the individual at 0.3FTE, in which case 3 outputs are required.

HEI A and HEI B may, but need not, list the same outputs.

If a member of staff has a contract with clearly split functions and part of their duties are non-academic, can the number of outputs be reduced for the time spent on their non-academic duties?
In order to be returned to the REF as Category A staff an individual must have a contract of employment with a primary employment function to undertake 'research only' or 'teaching and research'. They should be returned with an FTE relating to the entirety of that contract. The number of outputs may not be reduced on the basis that the individual also has other (non-academic) duties.
We have a Category C member of NHS staff undertaking research at the University. If the member of staff has a full-time contract with the NHS would they be eligible for a reduction in outputs?
Yes, as stated at paragraph 86 of Part 1 of the ‘panel criteria’, in UOAs 1-6 the number of outputs may be reduced by up to two, without penalty in the assessment, for Category C staff who are employed primarily as clinical, health or veterinary professionals (for example by the NHS), and whose research is primarily focused in the submitting unit.
If an individual first started their career as an independent researcher prior to 1 August 2009, can this time be included in an output reduction calculation?

For the purpose of identifying an individual as an early career researcher (ECR) in form REF1a: Staff details, the individual must first satisfy the definition of an ECR on or after 1 August 2009 (see paragraphs 85 – 87 of 'guidance on submissions').

For the purpose of calculating output reductions in form REF1b, you should consider the date that the individual started their career as an independent researcher, according to the criteria at paragraph 85a-b of the 'guidance on submissions'. This may be at any point within the REF period, and should be considered the date at which they first met the definition of an ECR.

If an individual first met the definition of an ECR before 1 August 2009 and this is the only circumstance for the individual, Table 1, Part 1 of the 'panel criteria' applies, and the individual is not entitled to a reduction in outputs.

If an individual met the definition of an ECR before 1 August 2009 and other circumstances also apply,  the number of months from 1 January 2008 up to the point the individual became an ECR can be combined with the other circumstances. In this case, Table 2, Part 1 of the 'panel criteria' applies to the total number of months 'absent'.  

Example:

An individual first started their career as an independent researcher on 1 September 2008 and then worked part-time at 0.5 FTE from 1 July 2010 – 30 June 2011. A reduction of 1 output is allowed:

No. of months prior to ECR status = 8
No. of months 'absent' due to part-time working = 12 x 0.5FTE = 6
Total no. of months 'absent' = 14 (reduction of 1 output)

Please also see ECU's worked complex circumstances, example 4.

The calculation method used in the example above should be applied when combining ECR status with other circumstances and supersedes the method used in example 12 of ECU’s worked complex circumstances.

What level of information will be required in REF1b for complex staff circumstances?

There are worked examples of complex circumstances published on the ECU web-site. These worked examples indicate the kind of information that should be provided and how it should be presented.

As far as practicable, an estimate should be provided of the equivalent number of months absent from work. Sufficient information should be provided to show how this was calculated, by stating the nature of the circumstance(s), the period(s) of time affected and the equivalent number of months absent for each period affected.

Any further constraints on the individual’s research work in addition to the equivalent months absent should also be explained (for example, constraints on research while at work). Sufficient detail should be provided to understand the overall effect on the individual's capacity to carry out research, by outlining the nature of the constraint(s), the proportion of their research capacity that was reduced, and the length of time affected.

For example:

  • An individual had time off work due to ill health and no further constraints after returning to work. REF1b need only state what the illness was, when the individual was off work, and the equivalent number of months absent.
  • An individual had time off work due to ill health, and after returning to work had limited capacity to pursue their research due to ongoing effects of the illness. REF1b should include the information as above, and in addition state what the ongoing effect of the illness was on their capacity to carry out research, and provide an estimate of the proportional reduction in their research capacity and the length of time to which this applied. 

REF1b should also show how the reduction in outputs has been calculated, according to Table 2 of the 'panel criteria' in relation to estimated months absent from work, with further constraints taken into account as appropriate.  

All information should be anonymous so that EDAP can review complex circumstances anonymously. Where the circumstance has involved other individuals (for example, where the member of staff cared for a relative), those individuals should not be named and it is not necessary to specify their exact relationship to the member of staff.

Is it necessary for the HEI to keep records of what evidence it consulted regarding individual staff circumstances, for the purposes of a potential audit by the REF team?
HEIs need to assure themselves that the circumstances cited in their REF submissions took place. In the event that the REF team audits REF1b, the HEI will need to state how it assured itself that the cited circumstance(s) took place, and what evidence it had consulted. Given the potential sensitivity involved in keeping records about such information, the timescale for these audits will provide HEIs with an opportunity to check the evidence before responding to the REF team, if a record of this information is not already held. Further details about the timetable for audit will be published in 2013.
For maternity, paternity and adoption leave, what does 'substantially during the period 1 January 08 to 31 October 2013' mean?

'Substantially' means that the majority or a substantial portion of the maternity leave was taken in this period. For example, an individual who went on maternity leave in June 2007 and returned in January 2008, or an individual who goes on maternity leave in October 2013 due to return during 2014, would not be considered to have taken maternity leave substantially within the REF period. Given that periods of such leave vary, a more precise definition cannot be given, and institutions will need to exercise their judgement.

The following additional guidance was added in October 2012:

In reaching these judgements, institutions should also consider how to treat staff whose maternity leave was taken partially within the REF period fairly, in comparison to staff whose maternity leave was taken entirely within the REF period. For the latter group of staff, there is no minimum qualifying length for maternity leave, and each period of such leave qualifies for the reduction of one output. Therefore, we consider it would be fair to allow the reduction of an output for a period of maternity leave that started prior to 1 January 2008 and continued for any length of time beyond that date, where the member of staff had been submitted to the 2008 RAE without any reduction in output due to that maternity leave. 


What information/explanatory text will be required for clearly defined individual staff circumstances in form REF1b?

For clearly defined circumstances, the explanation field of REF1b should be used to state what each of the circumstances was and when it occurred, to show how the reduction in outputs was calculated, and to provide enough information about the circumstances to enable the sub-panels to confirm that the criteria for output reductions have been met. The following specific details should be provided for each type of circumstance:

  • For early career researchers, provide brief details of the individual’s research career history, specifically identifying the point at which they first met the REF definition of an early career researcher. It is important to state why the individual did not, prior to that point, meet the definition of an early career researcher. This could be either by stating the nature of their contract (which did not meet the definition at paragraph 85a of ‘guidance on submissions'), or by outlining how their work did not include independent research.
  • For part-time working, provide the start and end dates and the FTE for each period in which the individual worked part-time, and state the equivalent ‘months absent’ for each period. These must be ‘absences’ in which the individual was neither working in the higher education sector, nor undertaking academic research at some other organisation (see this FAQ).
  • For secondments and career breaks, provide the start and end dates, and state the equivalent ‘months absent’ for each period. Provide sufficient information about the career break or secondment (for example, the name of the organisation seconded to and the job role) to confirm that the individual was neither working in the higher education sector nor undertaking academic research.
  • For maternity, paternity or adoption leave, state the start and end dates of each period of such leave.

Where multiple circumstances have been combined to calculate a reduction in outputs, the explanation should clearly show that where circumstances have overlapped, only one circumstance has been taken into account for that period.

Should HEIs provide information in REF1b where individual circumstances exist, but where the number of outputs for that individual is not reduced?
No. Information provided in REF1b is used only to determine reductions in the number of outputs, and will not be taken account of for any other purpose.
Will the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel's (EDAP's) decisions on complex circumstances be final, and what information will be available to HEIs on these decisions?
EDAP’s role is to make recommendations on complex circumstances to the chairs of the main panels, who are responsible for the decisions. Details of these decisions or any consequent reduction in outputs will not be provided to the submitting HEI, as no scores for individual outputs – missing or otherwise – are identified in the quality profiles award to submitted units, and HEIs do not receive feedback on the individual parts of submissions. In order for HEIs to understand how EDAP will form its recommendations, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) has published a series of worked examples of complex staff circumstances. These examples include EDAP’s rationale: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/documents/ref-materials/complex-circumstances-examples.
Can HEIs submit a reserve output, to be assessed if the reduction in outputs due to individual staff circumstances is not accepted?
No, HEIs may not submit a reserve output for individuals submitted with a reduction in outputs due to individual circumstances. Allowing a reserve output would diminish the case for an individual’s circumstances significantly constraining their ability to produce four outputs or to work productively throughout the assessment period. Additionally, allowing a reserve output would potentially result in unequal treatment of individuals who do not have an additional output compared to those who do. 
Will staff with individual circumstances be identified in the published submissions after the completion of the REF?
The published submissions will include a single list of all the outputs, and a separate list of all the staff, in each submission. The list of outputs will include standard bibliographic data (including the author name) for each output, but will not be listed by author name.
If an individual is employed by multiple HEIs on part-time contracts, or has multiple part-time contracts with one HEI for different roles, are they eligible for a reduction in outputs due to part-time working?

The reduction for part-time working applies only to time ‘absent’ in which the individual was neither working in the higher education sector, nor undertaking academic research at some other organisation. This is consistent with the allowances for secondments and career breaks.

Time spent working part-time in higher education, whether on an academic or non-academic contract, and whether in a UK or overseas HEI, does not qualify as an ‘absence’ when calculating reductions due to part-time working.

If an individual has had an eligible contract for many years but focused on teaching, and only undertook independent research for the first time after 1 August 2009, could they be defined as an early career researcher(ECR)?
Yes, for the purposes of the REF an individual is deemed to have started their research career from the point at which they held a contract of employment of 0.2 FTE or greater, which included a primary employment function of undertaking ‘research’ or ‘teaching and research’, with any HE or other organisation, whether in the UK or overseas, and they undertook independent research, leading or acting as principal investigator or equivalent on a research grant or significant piece of research work. Individuals qualify as early career researchers if both of these criteria were satisfied for the first time on or after 1 August 2009, even if one of these criteria had been satisfied prior to 1 August 2009.
If an individual takes a 'career break' from research, but remains in the higher education sector to undertake a management, administrative or teaching only role, would they be eligible for a reduction in outputs?
No. (The number of outputs may be reduced without penalty if the career break involved not working in the higher education sector and not undertaking academic research.)
To what extent will the information provided in REF1b (individual staff circumstances) be treated confidentially? Will EDAP review them anonymously?

Information on clearly defined circumstances will be available to the panel secretariat and panel members.

Information on complex circumstances will be provided only to the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP), the REF team and main panel chairs. Sub-panels and the secretariat will be informed that there are complex circumstances and of the decision on the number of outputs to assess, but they will not have access to any information about the nature of the circumstances.

To further maintain confidentiality, EDAP will review complex circumstances in anonymous form, where they are submitted by institutions in this form. Institutions are advised to complete the REF1b form for complex circumstances, without stating the individual's name or other personal identifiers. 

Where an individual is submitted with fewer than four outputs, without penalty in the assessment, how will the individual's research outputs contribute to the quality profile?
Each single output in a submission contributes an equal proportion to the outputs sub-profile for that submission, not as a proportion of the maximum of 4 outputs per member of staff. See paragraph 126, Part 1 of the ‘panel criteria’.
How should the total reduction in outputs be calculated where more than one clearly defined circumstance applies?

The calculations should be made according to the guidance at paragraphs 72-75, 80 and 82-84 of the ‘panel criteria’. The final sentence of paragraph 82 should be applied as follows: For all clearly defined circumstances to which Table 2 applies, the total ‘months absent’ should be added together, and the reduction for these circumstances calculated by applying Table 2 to the combined total. Any further reductions should then be applied due to qualifying periods of maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave.

The REF submissions system will provide a calculator function to determine the maximum reduction in outputs for combinations of clearly defined circumstances, based on the data entered about these circumstances. Some worked examples are provided below.

Example 1:

An individual working part-time at 0.8 FTE from 1 Jan 08 – 30 April 09 and part-time at 0.6 FTE from 1 May 09 – 30 April 11 would be eligible for a reduction of 1 output:

0.2 x 16 months = 3.2 months absence
0.4 x 24 months = 9.6 months absence
Total = 12.8 months absent (reduction of 1 output)

Example 2:

An individual took a career break outside of the HE sector from 1 Sep 09 – 31 Aug 10, then returned to research part-time at 0.5 FTE from 1 Sep 10 to 31 Aug 12. They would be eligible for a reduction of 1 output:

    12 months career break
0.5 x 24 months = 12 months absence for working part-time
Total = 24 months absent (reduction of 1 output)

Example 3:

An individual takes a 6 month period of maternity leave and then returns to works part-time at 0.4 FTE from 1 Mar 12 until the census date.  The individual would be eligible for a reduction of 2 outputs:

    12 months absent (reduction of 1 output)
    + 1 period of maternity leave (reduction of 1 further output)
Total = (Reduction of 2 outputs)

Example 4:

An individual qualified as an ECR on 1 Mar 2010, and worked part-time at 0.6 FTE from 1 May 2012 until the census date. They would be eligible for a reduction of 2 outputs:

    26 months ‘absence’ before qualifying as an ECR
0.4 x 18 months = 7.2 months absence for working part-time
Total = 33.2 months absent (reduction of 2 outputs)
Will the REF system limit access within the HEI to the personal information in REF1b?
Each institution will be able to determine which users of the submission system within the HEI have permission to read and/or edit each of the REF 'forms', including REF1b, for each UOA they are submitting in.
Can HEIs submit cases of complex individual staff circumstances for the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP) to review and provide feedback prior to the submission deadline?

No.

Following publication of the final panel criteria and working methods, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) will publish worked examples of complex staff circumstances, including EDAP's recommendations on these hypothetical cases. This is intended to provide clear indications to HEIs about the operation of the arrangements for complex circumstances. Following publication of these examples, HEI will be able to suggest further hypothetical examples for publication by ECU, to add to the range of published examples.

The ‘Panel criteria and working methods’ was published in February 2012.

Examples of complex staff circumstances are available on the ECU web-site.