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Labelling, packaging and delivery of outputs

The deadline for submissions to the REF from UK higher education institutions passed on 29 November 2013. The information on this page relates to the submissions phase of the exercise.

All outputs included in a submission that are not sourced by the REF team or uploaded as PDFs to the submission system must be provided as physical outputs for assessment. This page provides further guidance.

Labelling physical outputs

Each individual output must be labelled to enable efficient identification, cataloguing and dispatch of outputs to panels. The REF team have provided a report on the submission system entitled 'outputs to be provided to the warehouse' which will generate the required labels. This report will print onto Avery type L7165 labels: 99.1mm x 67.7mm.

If an institution wishes to produce its own labels it must not:

  • Include any additional information
  • Re-order the information
  • Use anything other than black text
  • Use font sizes smaller than 20pt Arial for the UOA number and UK Provider Reference Number (UKPRN) and 14pt Arial for the remainder of the label.

The labels may be affixed to each item as deemed most appropriate, but should be in an immediately obvious place, to aid the REF warehouse team and panel members.

Items which are too small to accommodate the label (for example, a USB) should be placed within a container (e.g. an envelope or folder) that is labelled as above. The item itself should also be labelled with the following information to enable identification of the item if it is separated from its container: UOA number; UKPRN; surname and initials of staff member. Smaller font sizes may be used for these labels.

Labels should be placed on the cases of CDs/DVDs rather than directly on the CDs/DVDs themselves, as labels can interfere with the function of the device.

Where a single output is comprised of multiple physical items (for example, a portfolio), these should be packaged together in a single labelled container. To enable identification of all items if separated from their container, HEIs should also label each individual item in the same way as small items, wherever it would not be visibly obvious to which output the item relates.

Preparing packages for delivery

Outputs submitted in the same UOA should be bundled together in the same pacakage(s) where practicable. Outputs should be packed in order (e.g. of surnames and output number 1-4) as far as possible.

All packages should display the UKPRN and the relevant UOA(s) on the outside. In addition to this, the REF team would like to request the name of institution is also displayed on the outside of the package (updated October 2013).

Outputs may be packed and delivered as institutions deem appropriate to ensure they arrive in an assessable state. The REF team will accept responsibility for loss or damage of any research output once it has been received*. Institutions should make appropriate arrangements to cover for loss or damage of their items while in transit to the warehouse. 

*Please remember that outputs of great rarity or value should not be deposited (updated October 2013).

Each institution's delivery should be accompanied by a printed list of:

  • Outputs omitted from the delivery because they are duplicates within the same UOA.
  • Outputs omitted from the delivery because their publication is pending.

Please note, a list of items omitted due to their size, rarity or value and for which a representation of the output has been submitted instead is no longer required (updated October 2013).

For each of the outputs listed above, the same information as that which is included on the labels should be provided. The UKPRN and institution name need only be given once at the top of the list.


The REF team will pay for the cost of returning outputs to institutions at the end of the assessment phase, but the costs of initial delivery to the warehouse will be borne by institutions. The delivery address will be in Bristol and we will provide REF contacts with the precise address later this year. The address will be accessible by regular mail and delivery van.

The REF team have contacted each institution with a specific date in December 2013 or January 2014 on which to deliver physical outputs. Physical outputs will be returned to the institution in early 2015.

Deliveries may be made by regular mail, but must arrive on the scheduled date. Deliveries of large items and deliveries by courier may be made at any time between 0930 and 1630 on the scheduled date.

Any output whose publication is pending may be sent separately from the institution's main delivery. Such outputs should be labelled and sent to the warehouse to arrive by 31 January 2014.

Joint submissions

Outputs for joint submissions may be packaged and delivered by any of the institutions making the joint submission, as they deem appropriate. However, all outputs submitted as part of a joint submission must be labelled with the UKPRN and name of the lead institution.