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157 UK universities made submissions to REF 2021, the UK’s framework for assessing the quality of higher education research. In total, they submitted over 185,000 outputs from research and over 6,000 impact case studies detailing where their research had benefitted wider society, across 34 subject-based units of assessment.

This latest publication includes the REF impact case study database, a searchable tool which will support wide-ranging analysis of the manifold contributions made by UK university research to the economy and society, in the UK and worldwide.

Preliminary analysis of the impact case studies highlights the diversity of areas in which research has made a key difference – from advancements in health and technology, to legislative and political change, societal, economic and cultural benefits, and environmental impact – and their global reach, with UK research making a contribution in every country worldwide. The database offers the potential for ‘deep dives’ into key topics – such as our universities’ contribution to achieving net zero, where initial analysis shows that research from across the disciplines and in institutions throughout the UK is generating outstanding impact on this agenda.

Published submission data also include details of the submitted outputs, data on the number of research degrees awarded and total research income for each submission, and narrative information about the research environment. The narrative statements are published both at submission level and, new for REF 2021, at university level also, providing unique insights into the strategies and support in place for research and academic staff across the range of participating universities.

Dr Kim Hackett, REF Director, said:

‘I am delighted to announce publication of the REF submissions and case study database. The early views we have from the case study analysis offer an enticing insight into both the vibrancy of UK research impact and the fruitfulness of digging more deeply into the data. I look forward to seeing this picture enriched as funders, research users and others make use of this valuable resource.’  

The four UK funding bodies have commissioned a detailed analysis of the impact case studies, as well as further analysis of submitted REF data, which are due for publication later in the year. This works forms part of the evaluation of the current exercise and will inform future arrangements for research assessment.

Notes

  1. The REF was undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE). REF 2021 was managed on behalf of the funding bodies by a UK team based at Research England.
  2. The results of REF 2021 were published on the REF website on 12 May 2022.
  3. The published submissions are available at www.ref.ac.uk from 07:00 on Wednesday 22 June 2022.
  4. The data include all submitted information, except for the list of submitted staff and any related information about reductions made on the basis of staff circumstances, and information identified by the institutions as confidential (for commercial or other reasons).
  5. The data reflect submissions as made at the submission deadline, incorporating any adjustments made to submissions as a result of audit by the REF team. Some aspects of the narrative data may have been redacted for publication by the submitting HEI (for commercial or other reasons).
  6. See https://www.jisc.ac.uk/future-research-assessment-programme for more information on the funding bodies’ Future Research Assessment Programme.