REF 2014 Overview

1.    What is the REF?

The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in higher education institutions across the UK and replaces the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The outcomes will be used by the four higher education funding bodies to allocate funding for research during 2015/16. These four bodies are the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL). The assessment will be a process of discipline-specific expert review across 36 subject areas called Units of Assessment (UOAs) – for a full list, see Annexe D, Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions. There are four main assessment panels (A–D), which will provide guidance and leadership to the 36 expert sub-panels, one for each UOA. Institutions will need to submit information about their staff, selected research publications (outputs), details about the impact of research at that institution, and data on the institution’s research environment. The deadline for institutions to submit to the REF is 29 November 2013. Outcomes will be published in December 2014. 

2.    Where can I find the official REF documents?

The following key REF publications are available from the REF website via the links below:

Published in July 2011, this document outlines the general framework for assessment in the 2014 REFand provides key guidance to higher education institutions about making submission to the REF. It includes guidance on the procedures that will be used for assessment, the data that will be required and the definitions that will apply. An addendum was published in January 2012 after the publication of the REF Panel Criteria and Working Methods document.  

This document sets out the assessment criteria and working methods that will be used by the main and sub-panels during the assessment phase of the REF in 2014. This document should be read in conjunction with the Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions for a comprehensive description of the information required for the REF and of how the panels will assess each submission.  

Each of the four main panels and the 36 sub-panels consists of individuals who are considered expert in their field and who were nominated to be part of the assessment process. The REF Team will also be appointing additional assessors prior to the submission deadline to provide further subject-specific expertise. A current list of the panel and sub-panel members is available on the website.  

3.    What is the aim of the BU REF2014 Code of Practice document?

The University’s REF2014 Code of Practice sets out the approach that will be, and has been, taken by BU in preparing its REF2014 submission. The aim of the code is to provide a framework that promotes a fair and transparent selection process, and to enable BU to include: ‘…all their eligible staff in submissions who are conducting excellent research, as well as promoting equality, complying with legislation and avoiding discrimination’ (par. 187, Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions). 

4.    Where can I find a copy of the BU REF Code of Practice?

The Code of Practice has been published on the BU Research Blog and on the BU Staff Intranet. 

5.    Why has BU got a two-tier governance structure, and what is the difference between the REF Academic Steering Group (RASG) and the REF Academic Leadership Team (RALT)?

There is a two-tier governance structure to ensure the University meets the following principles as set out in the REF guidance: 

  • Transparency – all processes for staff selection are clearly detailed in this code of practice, which is easily accessible to BU staff. It is also accessible via the external-facing BU website. BU staff were invited to comment on the draft code of practice in spring 2012.
  • Consistency – staff selection is coordinated centrally by the REF Academic Steering Group (RASG), which is responsible for ensuring the code of practice is implemented uniformly.
  • Accountability – the code of practice clearly defines the responsibilities of individuals involved in staff selection, and these individuals are identified by name and role. The development programme for staff involved in selection decisions is provided, as are the terms of reference for the two internal governance structures – the RASG and the REF Academic Leadership Team (RALT).
  • Inclusivity – the code promotes an inclusive environment with processes established to enable the University to identify all REF-eligible staff who have produced excellent research for submission to the REF.

RASG provides the strategic management of the University’s REF submission while RALT provides operational, local management. For more details, see sections 2.1.1–2.1.2 of the Code of Practice.

6.    I have a question about my REF submission – who should I contact for information?

Contact your UOA leader in the first instance (see Appendix 2 in the Code of Practice). Otherwise, email Julie Northam or Peng Peng Ooi in the Research Development Unit. Any queries that cannot be answered internally will be directed to the REF Team via a dedicated email address by Julie Northam, who is the BU institutional contact for the REF.

Link to the BU REF 2014 Code of Practice.

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