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How will REF work?

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 sub-panels will assess the quality of research outputs in terms of their ‘originality, significance and rigour’ with reference to international research quality standards.  Some of the panels will make use of citation information to inform their review of outputs.
  • The wider impact of research.  The assessment of impact is a new feature for REF. The sub-panels will assess the ‘reach and significance’ of impacts on the economy, society and/or culture that were underpinned by excellent research conducted in the submitted unit, as well as the submitted unit’s approach to enabling impact from its research.
  • The vitality of the research environment. The sub-panels will assess the research environment in terms of its ‘vitality and sustainability’, including contribution to the wider vitality and sustainability of the wider discipline or research base.

The final weightings attached to each of these areas have been confirmed :

  • Research Outputs -65%
  • Impact -20% (is likely to increase in subsequent REFs) 
  • Environment -15%

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).

The funding councils have now published two key documents governing REF:

Following the consultation, the final panel criteria and working methods publication is scheduled to be published in January 2012.

To find out how Cardiff performed in the last RAE, please click here.

Further detailed information about the REF can be found on the following webpages: www.ref.ac.uk