On (almost) completing the REF2014 submission.

For the whole of last week people kept coming up to me and saying ‘you must be relieved now that the REF is submitted’. I, of course agreed with them. But inwardly I was beginning to panic slightly, thinking about the 101 sticky labels which I had to produce and to affix to each and every item of the physical outputs and portfolios to be delivered to HEFCE by the end of this week. So, no feelings of jubilation yet for me, I’m afraid. That however, did not stop me from joining in the merriment at the office last Friday, celebrating the official electronic submission to the REF2014, and toasting various individuals who have contributed, one way or another to the successful submission of REF2014.

It’s good to see that when such an extended and major project comes to fruition, due recognition is given to people who have made it happen. This is especially meaningful and heartfelt coming from the Vice Chancellor as well as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

In my own little REF world,  however, I would like to thank MY unsung heroes, starting with the Bournemouth University librarians who prioritised any scan requests when chapter  or journal outputs were desperately needed; the helpful PAs who had the ‘power’ to shift heaven and earth to free up meeting slots in people’s diaries for important REF meetings, and many others who I have failed to mention. Most importantly, thanks to my colleagues in the RKEO team. The fantastic and efficient support kept me going; kept the whole REF going – processing claim forms for external reviewers, sorting out accommodation requests, ordering catering, ordering stationery and even dropping everything they were doing to provide emergency data entry and checking support when called upon. Even those who have left our team, have left a legacy behind through REF. My gratitude also extends to understanding fellow colleagues who knew the importance of the REF and constantly provided moral support; to my fellow after-hour office mate, Becca who on one particular desperate evening, started singing ‘the drugs don’t work, they just make you worse’ (don’t ask!) and last but not least, Rita Dugan, who held my hand as I sobbed into my handkerchief when it all got a bit much!!

I realise that this is beginning to sound a lot like a speech one would give upon receiving an Oscar. I haven’t won anything, I remind myself. But this whole 17 months leading up to the submission has been a really fun, exhilarating and challenging roller coaster ride which is constantly in the upward position. As soon as I started this post, I practically hit the ground running. When I came into post, we were in the initial stage of organising the Summer 2012 Outputs Mock Exercise. Following that were a series of major events to be organised. Just to name a few – a mid mock review, a writing retreat, BRIAN training programmes, testing of the REF submission system, the Spring 2013 Full Mock Exercise,  another series of external panel reviewers meetings, which included meetings to discuss the impact case studies reviews; multiple RASG and RALT meetings; finalising the staff selection for the REF2014 submission; uploading all information onto the REF submission system; double and triple checking the system for accuracy with Julie Northam… etc, etc, etc. And amongst all that, I have also somehow managed to squeeze a wedding into the mix.

Through all that, I have come out of the other end, intact. And that, is my winning prize. Along the process, I have gained new acquaintances, found firm friends, gained new knowledge, new skills, and an insight into the assessment of research excellence at HEIs and there was never a dull moment at work (roll on REF2020!!)

On that note, I will now continue with my sticky label frenzy. And this Friday after work, do open a bottle of champagne and help me celebrate as by then, all the boxes to HEFCE would have been out the door and that’s when I can properly celebrate! Cheers!