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Impact case studies that include confidential information

'Panel criteria'(Part 1, paragraphs 58-59) sets out the arrangements to enable institutions to submit impact case studies that include confidential information, with the agreement of the relevant organisation(s). The information is repeated here:

  • All panel members are bound by confidentiality arrangements. Panel members' obligations during the assessment phase will be expanded on, to include specific arrangements for their treatment of confidential or sensitive information in submissions. These expanded arrangements will be published in early 2013.
  • Where there are main or sub-panel members or assessors who HEIs believe would have a conflict of interest in assessing specific case studies, HEIs can identify these when making submissions, and the case studies will not be made available to such individuals.
  • When making submissions, HEIs can identify specific case studies that either should not be published at all due to their confidential nature, or that should be redacted prior to publication (see 'Excluding parts of submissions from publication'). HEIs will be able to provide redacted versions suitable for publication after the close of submissions. Submitted case studies identified as 'not for publication' or for 'redaction' will be destroyed by the REF team once no longer required for assessment purposes. 
  • To protect panel members from potentially inappropriate exposure to intellectual property, sub-panel chairs may identify specific panel members who should not have access to, or should have access only to the redacted versions of, specific case studies that include commercially sensitive information.

Case studies requiring security clearance

In addition to the general arrangements above, there may be specific instances where research has had impacts of a sensitive nature where the material to be included in a case study could be made available for assessment only to individuals with national security vetting clearance. The following arrangements apply, to enable the submission of such specific cases:

  • The submitting HEI must request advance permission from the REF manager to submit such case studies, by providing outline information about the broad nature of the impact, the level of sensitivity of the intended material, and the level of clearance required of individuals to whom the full case study could be made available. These requests must be made by December 2012 (guidance on making these requests is available). 
  • Permission will be granted to submit such case studies where the REF manager considers, having consulted the relevant panel chairs, that:
    • The confidentiality arrangements outlined above are insufficient to enable the institution to submit the case study in the normal way for assessment by the panel; and
    • It is practicable to identify existing panellists or appoint additional assessors who have the appropriate clearance and expertise, and do not have direct conflicts of interest, to assess the material. Additional assessors would only be appointed for this purpose, on the basis that they would also play a full role as assessors, taking part in the sub-panel’s calibration exercise and assessing a range of material relevant to their expertise.

Where permission is granted, arrangements will be made for the HEI to make the case study available securely to the appropriate panel members/assessors. Only the outline information will be made available to the panel and no details about these case studies will be published.

HEIs should allow sufficient time for such case studies to go through the relevant organisation’s internal release processes.