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Detailed guidance is currently under development in several policy areas and will be published in the Guidance on Submissions in summer 2018. This will include further information on the following topics:

  • co-authorship
  • eligibility of individuals and their outputs (beyond those provided in ‘Decisions on staff and outputs’)
  • individual and unit circumstances
  • joint submissions
  • multiple submissions
  • the timing and criteria for requesting exclusions for small submissions.

We are also developing arrangements for audit procedures, and will publish these following the final guidance and criteria.

Open access FAQs are available here

Please consult the ‘Initial decisions’ (REF 2017/01) and ‘Decisions on staff and outputs’ (REF 2017/04 publications for information on the high-level decisions affecting these areas.


Will HEIs be able to decide into which UOA staff are submitted?

Yes. Responsibility for mapping staff into UOAs will remain with institutions.

Is staff FTE calculated at submitting unit or institutional level?

The number of outputs for each submission will be calculated by multiplying the total FTE of ‘Category A submitted’ staff in the submitting unit by 2.5. The FTE of staff across all submitting units in the institution should total the FTE of staff at institution level (except where an exclusion from submission has been given for a very small unit).

Can staff employed after the census date be submitted?

Staff employed after the census date will not be eligible for submission.

Are institutions required to submit staff who have left the institution?

No. The outputs of former staff optionally may be included in submissions, where the staff member was previously employed as Category A eligible when the output was demonstrably generated.

Will institutions be able to include outputs of staff that have been made redundant?

We note concerns that, in view of the institution’s future intentions, the inclusion of outputs from staff made redundant may not represent a rounded view of the work carried out in the submitting unit. We will consult the main panels and the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel on this issue, when considering the full set of eligibility criteria for output submission.

Can research outputs sole-authored by Category C members of staff be submitted for assessment?

No. To be eligible for return, outputs must be authored by ‘Category A submitted’ staff or staff previously employed as ‘Category A eligible’ when the output was first made publicly available. Outputs co-authored by Category C staff may be submitted within the min. 1 and max. 5 limits of the Category A staff co-author.

What measures will be put in place to prevent institutions from hiring ‘research superstars’ on fixed-term 0.2FTE contracts?

Institutions will have to provide a written statement for all submitted staff on the minimum 0.2 FTE contract that describes the connection of the staff member to the submitting institution. This may include, for example, postgraduate research (PGR) student supervision responsibilities. This will also apply to former staff on 0.2FTE contracts whose outputs are submitted by their former institution.

How will the funding bodies define ‘significant responsibility for research’?

Staff with significant responsibility for research are those for whom explicit time and resources are made available to engage actively in independent research, and that is an expectation of their job role. The guidance on submissions and panel criteria will provide a menu of suggested indicators of significant responsibility for research that institutions might use when developing their processes. This guidance will not prescribe a fixed set of criteria that all staff would be required to meet.

Will the funding bodies stipulate the proportion of time that staff with significant responsibility for research should have allocated to research?

In recognition of differences across institutions in how staff responsibilities are determined, the funding bodies do not consider it appropriate to set a generic criterion relating to a minimum proportion of time allocated for research. However, we recognise that many institutions will want to draw on the proportion of time that is allocated for research to identify staff in scope. The funding bodies consider that this will be an appropriate approach, where there is a clear and agreed rationale for the proportion that is set.

Will staff on ‘teaching and research’ contracts be required to demonstrate research independence?

No. Evidence of research independence will only be required for staff on ‘research only’ contracts.

Will institutions be required to submit staff on ‘teaching and research’ contracts who are required to undertake research as part of their role (e.g. through a doctoral research degree) but do not undertake research independently?

Where the institutional process for determining ‘significant responsibility for research’ includes an evaluation of research independence, this may be included in the Code of Practice. Further guidelines on the appropriate indicators of ‘significant responsibility for research’ will be provided in the guidance on submissions and panel criteria.

Which staff data from HESA will be used and from what year(s)?

We are working with the Higher Education Statistics Agency to enable close alignment between the information collected in the staff record and the submission requirements for the REF. Decisions on the data to be used will be published in the Guidance on Submissions.


Can outputs published while at a non-UK institution, or as an independent scholar, be submitted to REF 2021?

Yes, where they are within the publication period and meet any other applicable eligibility criteria, these outputs may be included in submissions by the institution employing the staff member on the census date.

Will part-time staff have to meet the requirement for a minimum of one output?

Yes. The minimum and maximum limits on the number of outputs will apply to the person, not their FTE.

What will happen if a unit does not submit the required number of outputs or case studies?

Each missing output or case study will receive an ‘unclassified’ score.

Will there be the possibility of generating discrete output sub-profiles?

We will explore introducing discrete sub-profiles for outputs with the panels in the broader UOAs, and will consider implementation following further consultation on the panel criteria.

Does the REF assessment process distinguish between research outputs on the basis of mode of publication, place or publication or publisher?

No. The REF is governed by a principle of equity and is committed to the fair and equal assessment of all types of research and forms of research output.

Will institutions still be able to request that monographs are double-weighted?

Yes. We do not envisage making any substantive changes to the policy of double-weighting outputs.

Will approaches to double-weighting monographs be determined at main panel level?

Yes. As was the case in REF 2014, each main panel will provide guidance on how outputs of extended scale and scope are characterised in their disciplines, and on the process for requesting an output to be double-weighted.

Where an institution employs a member of staff on the census date, which of their outputs can be submitted?

For Category A submitted staff, outputs that are within the publication period and meet any other applicable eligibility criteria (for example, open access requirements) are eligible.

Interdisciplinary research 

When will guidance be made available around interdisciplinary research? Will this include a definition of IDR?

The detailed guidance and criteria, due to be published in summer 2018, will set out further guidance relating to the submission and assessment of interdisciplinary research. This will draw on advice from our Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP), including around improving the guidance for identifying interdisciplinary research outputs.

What expertise should interdisciplinary advisers hold?

Interdisciplinary advisers could come from a variety of research backgrounds: for example they may have experience of publishing IDR, managing complex IDR projects, leading IDR initiatives or research in the area of IDR practice. See our blog on interdisciplinary research for further details.

What role will the interdisciplinary advisers play on the panels?

Interdisciplinary advisers will:

    • contribute to the development of panel criteria and working methods;
    • provide oversight of the assessment of IDR elements within each submission;
    • assess submissions; and
    • engage with the broader network of advisers.

See our blog on interdisciplinary research for further details.


Are the qualifying dates for doctoral completions the same as the dates for income?

Yes. Data about research income and research doctoral degrees awarded must fall within the assessment period: 1 August 2013 to 31 July 2020.

What kinds of data can institutions provide in the environment statement? Can they include TEF and/or KEF data?

Institutions can provide any data that they consider appropriate as evidence for claims made in the statement. A working group of the Forum for Responsible Research Metrics has been established to consider the types of data that institutions might select to include, and the group will provide guidance to the panels. Guidance on the inclusion of quantitative data will be included in the panel criteria, which will be published for consultation in summer 2018.

Some institutions might choose to merge smaller units or redistribute staff – will there be space in the environment statement to explain these decisions?

We will develop the environment template with the panels, and anticipate that this will again include a section describing the coverage and structure of the submitting unit.