The REF is a process of expert review. Institutions are invited to make submissions in 34 units of assessment (UOAs). The submissions are assessed by an expert sub-panel for each UOA, working under the guidance of four main panels.
The members of the REF panels are appointed by the four UK funding bodies. See detailed information on the roles and recruitment of panels.
The main panels oversee the assessment, ensuring the assessment criteria and standards are consistently applied. They are responsible for signing-off the results recommended by the sub-panels. The main panels include international members to provide assurance about the international benchmarking of standards. The Main Panel Chairs for each of the four main panel areas are:
- Main Panel A: Medicine, health and life sciences – Professor John Iredale, Pro Vice-Chancellor Health, University of Bristol
- Main Panel B: Physical sciences, engineering and mathematics – Professor David Price, Vice-Provost (Research), University College London
- Main Panel C: Social sciences – Professor Jane Millar OBE, Professor of Social Policy and former Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Bath.
- Main Panel D: Arts and humanities – Professor Dinah Birch CBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact, University of Liverpool.
The sub-panels review submissions according to a set of assessment criteria and level definitions. Each sub-panel will have appointed members with a specific role to oversee and participate in the assessment of interdisciplinary research submitted in that UOA, to ensure its equitable assessment. All sub-panels will include research users, who will participate in the assessment of impact in particular. Specialist advisers assist with outputs in languages that the sub-panels are unable to assess.