CREST/GuildHE REF Consultation Meeting

10 January 2017, London

The meeting included two presentations: one by Gordon McKenzie (GuildHE) on the developments regarding the Higher Education Bill and the other by Steven Hill (HEFCE) on the proposed changes for REF 2021.

The first presentation provided the context for the second one. Among the key points was the need for explicit ring-fencing of funding for different funding bodies within UKRI and for clarity of UKRI’s responsibility to fund knowledge exchange. The latter has been agreed; the former is being agreed and is likely to be put in place soon. The House of Lords debated the definition of ‘university’ and passed the vote to accept the proposed definition. Although the definition states that ‘a university should offer an extensive range of subjects’, the nature of specialist universities was taken into account.

The presentation on the changes to REF 2021 covered the three areas to be evaluated in REF: outputs, impact and environment. As was expected, outputs are proposed to be worth 65% of the total grade, impact 20% (possibly including institutional impact at 5%), and environment 15%.

The panels are likely to remain at 36, with changes to sequencing and recruitment of its members to provide more variety of specialisms and institutions.

100% submission was proposed and is likely to be accepted: all staff on contracts featuring research as part of duties. A minimum of 0 publications is also likely to be accepted, although there was a proposal to increase that to 1. This was argued against by most attendees, since it would go against the decoupling principle set out in the Stern Review (i.e. that outputs need to be decoupled from staff members).

Outputs will be assessed by peer review with metrics used to inform the review where appropriate. Further consultations are needed to define how collaborative and interdisciplinary publications will be assessed. For Open Access, outputs need to be uploaded onto university repositories. Outputs are proposed to be non-portable, i.e. they will be claimed by the institutions where they were published. This is a point of serious contention, as this would disadvantage new subject areas with staff coming in from other institutions.

Impact will be assessed as before, with the definition aligned to the one used by RCUK. The impact template will be moved to the environment section. The minimum number of case studies will be 1. A move away from basing case studies on outputs is proposed – now it will be based on a body of work with the star threshold at 2*. Continuity between case studies from 2014 and 2021 will be allowed. There will be an institutional-level assessment of impact – a case study of the impact of research across an institution (multidisciplinary and collaborative).

Environment will be assessed to recognise institutional investment in research and to make space for long-term research. Impact strategy will be included in this section. There will be more focused questions in place of a lengthy narrative.

Points identified for response from CREST/GuildHE:

  • Non-portability of outputs (see above);
  • A minimum of 0 publications to remain unchanged;
  • The process of aligning people with the right UoA – currently, it is proposed to be done through HESA cost codes but this information may not be fully accurate.

The deadline for institutional and group responses to the consultation is 17 March 2017.

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