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The assessment framework for REF 2021 is currently being developed, informed by evaluations of REF 2014, Lord Stern’s independent review of the exercise, and consultation with the sector. 

Initial decisions on a number of high-level aspects of the framework are set out in detail in the document ‘Initial decisions on the Research Excellence Framework 2021’ (REF2017/01). 

Pilot activities are also being planned to inform the inclusion of institutional-level assessment of environment and impact in future exercises.   

Evaluation 

REF Manager's report

REF 2014 Panel Overview Reports

Equality and diversity in the REF: Final report by EDAP

Immediately following REF 2014 a number of reports were produced to reflect on what worked well, and recommend potential improvements to the guidelines, procedures and operation of a future exercise. These reports were produced by the REF Manager, the main panels, and the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel.

Evaluation of Impact

The four UK higher education funding bodies commissioned RAND Europe to conduct an evaluation of the impact element of REF 2014. The evaluation was commissioned in two phases, to look in turn at the submission preparation for impact by higher education institutions (HEIs), and at the assessment process for impact by the REF panels.

Evaluation of equality and diversity (E&D) in environment

The Career Development Organisation (CRAC) was commissioned to seek evidence of equality and diversity (E&D) activity at Unit of Assessment level in the environment submissions in REF 2014. The report specifically aimed to understand how far E&D varied at main panel and Unit of Assessment level, and to reveal any trends relating reporting of specific E&D activities to REF2014 outcomes.

Feedback

Following the exercise, feedback was gathered from institutions that participated in REF 2014 and the expert panels on the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment framework and where refinements may be made in future.

REF Accountability Review: Costs, benefits and burden

This review entailed a comprehensive analysis of institutional costs for a sample population of 20 UK higher education institutions, covering all staff-related costs and related expenditure, both centrally and at the unit of assessment (UOA) level.

Review of the UK’s interdisciplinary research

Using the disciplinary diversity of article bibliographies as a proxy for interdisciplinarity, the study examined the intensity and performance of interdisciplinary research activity in the UK and in eight comparator countries in the years 2009-2013.

Consultation

Research Excellence Framework (REF) review: Building on success and learning from experience

In 2015, the Government commissioned Lord Stern to lead an independent review of the REF. The review was published in July 2016 and makes recommendations on the future operation of the REF.

Consultation on the Second Research Excellence Framework

In autumn 2016, the Minister for Universities and Science invited HEFCE to work alongside the other funding bodies to develop and consult on detailed proposals to take forward the recommendations from Lord Stern’s review for the next REF.

Consultation on the second Research Excellence Framework: Summary of responses

We received 388 formal responses to the consultation. This document provides a summary of the responses, outlining the key issues raised.