Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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The UK REF2014 results are now available on the REF2014 website

There is further analysis of the University of Strathclyde results on the RKES portal

Research Funding and the REF

A succession of research assessments since 1986 have determined the level of government funding for research in UK Higher Education through one element of the dual support system. An annual block grant supports research infrastructure and allows universities to undertake research of their choosing. This funding is allocated selectively on the basis of quality, the assessment process being carried out by the Higher Education Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of funding bodies in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The other aspect of the dual support system is funding through Research Councils UK. The seven Research Councils receive money from the government's Science Budget, administered through the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, to provide support for specific projects and programmes. This funding is awarded on the basis of individual applications, which are peer reviewed.

The block funding for research from the Scottish Funding Council (Research Excellence Grant) is now determined by a measure involving a weighting for Volume (number of staff submitted to REF2014) Cost Factor (a weighting applied to high cost subject areas) and Quality (levels of 3 and 4* in the overall REF performance profiles for each UoA). The proportion of the total amount of competitively awarded funding in Scotland, and proportion of total Charity funding in Scotland are also factored in to the calculation. 

From 2015 the results of REF2014 will be used to inform government research funding. 

REF Timetable
  • University of Strathclyde submission to REF2014 was made in November 2013
  • UK REF results were released on 18th December 2014 including the sub-profiles for outputs, impact and enviroment
  • HEFCE also published comparative data on 18th December 2014. This comprised, for each UOA, the average profiles for all submissions to the UOA (mean average, weighted for staff volume); and the minimum, lower quartile, median, upper quartile and maximum percentage for each quality level from 4* to unclassified
  • The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published contextual data for the REF on 18th December 2014 which has permitted the calculation of the percentage of eligible staff who were submitted to REF in each UOA
  • Subject panel overview reports have now been published on the REF website
  • All UK submissions are now on the REF website. For each submission this includes: a separate list of staff and outputs; the submitted case studies and impact template; and the submitted environment data and template. Personal and contractual details of staff, and any other data that the HEI has indicated should not be published for commercial sensitivity or other reasons, has been removed
  • The impact case studies were made public as a searchable database in April 2015
REF & Impact

The introduction of impact into the REF is an important addition to the assessment of research activity. 

Impact is defined by HEFCE as covering 'economic and social benefits that are built on research of the highest quality'. It does not include impact through intellectual influence on scientific knowledge and academia, or impact on students and teaching within the same Higher Education Institution. For REF2014, impacts occurring in the assessment period (1st Jan 2008 - 31st July 2013) must be linked to previous underpinning research or research-based activity, which has been supported by the institution claiming the impact. The underpinning research must also reach a threshold of quality defined as 'recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.'

HEFCE published details of the types of impact and examples of evidence to support claims for impact in the Main Panel Criteria and Working Methods released in January 2012. For more detail on Impact at Strathclyde go to the Researchers' Portal



REF Structure - Summary table
 weighting 65%
 weighting 20%
weighting 15%
maximum of 4 outputs per submitted person, with reduction for early career researchers and individual circumstances two impact case studies for first 2 - 14.99 FTE submitted, plus one  study per additional 10 submitted staff. UoA level statement UoA level narrative on research environment,  plus quantitative indicators on research degrees awarded and research income
assessed by expert review panels, with citation data provided to some sub panels assessed by expert review panels which include end-users of research assessed by expert review panels, informed by HESA data on research income and doctoral degrees awarded
REF Latest News
  • The Scottish Funding Council will use the percentage of three and four star research in the UoA profiles to calculate the Research Excellence Grant to Scottish Higher Education Institutions from 2015 onwards.
  • The Main Panel Overview Reports were released in January 2015
  • HEFCE have released the REF2014 impact case studies in a searchable database
  • An independent report on the Nature, Scale and Beneficiaries of Research Impact - based on the REF impact case studies has been released. 
REF and Individual Circumstances

As a key measure to support equality and diversity in research careers, in all UOAs individuals could be returned with fewer than four outputs without penalty in the assessment, where their individual circumstances had significantly constrained their ability to produce four outputs or to work productively throughout the assessment period. This measure is intended to encourage institutions to submit all their eligible staff who have produced excellent research.

The Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel have now published their report on Equality and Diversity in REF2014.



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