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BU REF 2021 Code of Practice

Each institution making a submission to the REF 2021 was required to develop, document and apply a code of practice on determining who an independent researcher was and the selection of outputs in their REF submissions. Those institutions not submitting 100 per cent of eligible staff were required to include in the code of practice the criteria and processes for identifying staff with significant responsibility for research.

Bournemouth University’s Code of Practice was assessed and accepted by Research England on the 8th November 2019. It was revised to accommodate national changes to the REF exercise in October 2020.

Staff were encouraged to read the updated Code of Practice however, a summary of the key points can be downloaded here.


Staff Eligibility

Staff were eligible for submission to REF 2021 if they:

  • Were on BU’s payroll on the 31st July 2020
  • Held a contract of employment of 0.2 FTE[1] or greater
  • And either had:
  • A primary employment function to undertake ‘research only’ (as returned to HESA) and meet the definition of an independent researcher as outlined below.


  • A primary employment function to undertake ‘teaching and research’ (as returned to HESA) and have significant responsibility for independent research (SRR) as outlined below.
  • [1] For individuals with a contract of 0.20 to 0.29 FTE then we need to demonstrate they have a substantive connection to the University

Significant Responsibility for Research (SRR)

Staff on teaching and research contracts[2] were eligible for submission only if they were considered to have ‘Significant Responsibility for Research’. To be considered as such, an individual would need to meet at least one of these four indicators:

  1. Leading or acting as principal investigator/equivalent or co-investigator on at least one externally funded research grant or contract since 1 January 2014.
  2. Supervising at least one doctoral student between 1 January 2014 and 31 July 2020.
  3. Awarded a doctorate prior to 31 July 2019.
  4. Holding a research leadership position including Professor, Deputy Dean (Research and Professional Practice)/or equivalent, UOA Leader between 1 January 2014 and 31 July 2020.

These indicators were designed to be transparent, fair and consistent in their application as well as inclusive in their breadth, enabling the identification of all ‘teaching and research’ staff who had significant responsibility for independent research. Under Fusion, staff workloads can change on an annual basis; to be as inclusive as possible we are applying the indicators over the majority of the REF publication period.

Perceived output quality or volume of output would not be considered in the process of identifying whether an individual has significant responsibility for research.

[2] At BU this normally includes academic staff on BU pay grades 6-12.

Independent researchers

To be submitted to the REF staff employed on ‘research-only’ contracts must be considered to be independent researchers, defined for the purposes of the REF as “an individual who undertakes self-directed research, rather than carrying out another individual’s research programme” (REF Guidance on Submissions, paragraph 131).

Under our Fusion strategy, we employ very few staff on ‘research-only’ contracts – these tend to be Research Assistants[3] who are employed to support and carry out another individual’s research programme. As such this section of the code of practice was anticipated to be relevant to only a small number of staff.

Where staff were employed on ‘research-only’ contracts indicators to determine research independence were used. To be considered to meet the definition of research independence an individual would need to meet at least one of these two indicators:

1 – Leading or acting as principal investigator or co-investigator on an externally-funded research project since 1 January 2014.

2 – Holding an independently won, competitively awarded fellowship where research independence is a requirement since 1 January 2014 (see Annex 19 of the Code of Practice).

These indicators were designed to be transparent, fair and consistent in their application as well as inclusive in their breadth, enabling the identification of all ‘research-only’ staff who were independent researchers as defined in the context of this code of practice.

All staff employed on ‘research-only’ contracts who met these criteria and were therefore considered to be independent researchers would have had significant responsibility for research so were returned.

[3] At BU this normally refers to research staff on BU pay grades 1-5.

Selection of outputs

Each submission would comprise a number of outputs equal to 2.5 times the combined FTE of submitted staff. A minimum of one output was required for each submitted staff member, with no more than five attributed to any individual (including former staff). The Code of Practice detailed processes that would be used to ensure a fair and transparent selection of outputs, without bias to any particular group of staff. This involved peer review of potential REF outputs before selecting in rank order the strongest available.

Equality-related circumstances

Submission of a pool of outputs rather than a fixed number per person was intended to provide increased flexibility in selecting outputs for submission. However, the funding bodies had put in place additional measures to recognise the effect that equality-related circumstances may have on research productivity. Such circumstances included qualifying as an early career academic, having taken family-related leave or secondments and career breaks, or circumstances equivalent to absence such as illness, disability and caring responsibilities.

Staff had the opportunity to confidentially declare the circumstances and to potentially reduce the number of outputs required by the unit or waive the requirement for them to have the minimum of one output.

It is important to note that the REF rules prevented us from using any other source of information to take account of equality-related circumstances, and therefore even though staff may have had already provided this information to department for other purposes, or their circumstances were clearly known, this declaration form was the only route to having them considered for REF purposes.

All staff were invited by Chair of the REF Circumstances Board to complete a disclosure form (Annex 15 of the Code of Practice) which was returned directly to HR via REFCircs@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Final Equality Analysis

As stated in the BU Code of Practice, after submission to the REF in March 2021 the final equality analysis will be published alongside the Code of Practice document and this will include the outcomes of any actions taken to prevent discrimination or advance equality as part of the REF preparation submission.

The relevant documents are as follow:

Both the Equality Impact Assessment and the Staff Circumstances Report documents were submitted to Research England on 31 July 2021.


Further information

Further information about the REF is available:

General enquiries about the exercise or BU’s REF preparations should be directed to REF@bournemouth.ac.uk in the first instance.

Staff circumstances enquiries should be directed to REFCircs@bournemouth.ac.uk.