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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 results will be used to determine public funding for universities' research, and will affect their reputations. Through the REF, expert panels will assess the academic excellence of research, as well as the impact of research beyond academia. For an outline of the REF, please read the brief guide, below.

REF2014: A brief guide for research users

 Download the REF Brief guide for users as PDF (110 KB)

How can research users be involved?

Research users are being invited to become involved in the REF, either to:

  • Help provide evidence of impact: Universities may ask research users to assist in providing evidence of, or to corroborate, the impact of their research.
  • Take part in assessing impact: Research users will take part in the REF expert panels, to assess the impact of university research. 

We invited nominations for research users to act assessors on the REF panels. This is now closed. The appointments will be made during 2013.  For further information, please contact

Civil service pro-forma

Civil servants who are asked by a university to provide evidence or corroborate an impact, are encouraged to use this pro-forma. It was developed by the Government Economic and Social Research Services and has been circulated within the civil service. Universities may also disseminate the pro-forma when contacting civil servants.