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Information for research users

This web-page provides information about the REF for 'research users': people outside of academia in the private, public or charitable sectors, who:

  • Make use of university research in their organisation or professional activity
  • Commission or collaborate with academic researchers
  • Or have been asked to participate in the REF in some way.

What is the REF?

The REF is the new system for assessing research in UK universities. The REF results will be used to determine public funding for universities' research, and will affect their reputations. Through the REF, expert panels assessed the quality of research and - for the first time in a national exercise - the impact of research on the economy and society.

Universities submitted 6,975 impact case studies for assessment by the REF panels.    

How were research users involved?

Research users were involved in the REF, either to:

  • Help provide evidence of impact: During 2013, universities requested research users to assist in providing evidence of, or to corroborate, the impact of their research.
  • Assess the impact of research: During 2014, more than 250 research users took part in the REF expert panels, to assess the impact of university research. 

REF 2014 results

The REF results were published on 18 December 2014. They demonstrate wide-ranging and significant public benefits arising from research in all disciplines, and from many diverse UK universities.

On average across all submissions, 44% of impacts were judged to be outstanding (4*), by over 250 research users working jointly with the academic panel members. A further 40% were judged very considerable (3*). 

Outstanding impacts on the economy, society, culture, public policy and services, health, the environment and quality of life – within the UK and internationally – were found. These reflect universities’ productive engagements with a very wide range of public, private and third sector organisations, and engagement directly with the public.

The impact case studies will be published in January 2015.