The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), and is set to be completed in 2014. The REF will be undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies. The exercise will be managed by the REF team based at HEFCE and overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four funding bodies.
The REF will:
- inform the selective allocation of research funding to HEIs
- provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks
- provide accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate its benefits.
Through the REF, the UK funding bodies aim to develop and sustain a dynamic and internationally competitive research sector that makes a major contribution to economic prosperity, national wellbeing and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.
The REF will be a process of expert review, informed by indicators where appropriate. Expert sub-panels for each of 36 units of assessment (UOAs) will carry out the assessment, working under the guidance of four broad main panels. Institutions will be invited to make submissions to each UOA, to be assessed in terms of:
- The quality of research outputs
This will continue to be the primary factor in the assessment. The quality of research outputs will be assessed by the expert panels against international standards of excellence. We expect that some of the panels will make use of citation information to inform their review of outputs.
- The wider impact of research
We have completed a pilot exercise to develop and test the method for assessing this.
- The vitality of the research environment
The outcomes of the overall assessment will be fine-grained enough to identify excellence wherever this may be found. Panels will produce a sub-profile for each element (outputs, impact and environment), to be combined into an overall excellence profile. The profiles will show the proportion of submitted work at each point on a five-point scale (1* to 4* plus Unclassified).