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The publication, 'Decisions on assessing research impact', confirms how much weighting the assessment of research impacts will have in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) (Note 1).

The relative weightings of research outputs, impact and the research environment (Note 2) affect how much each element will contribute to the overall quality profile that will be awarded to each submission made by higher education institutions (HEIs) to the REF. They will be as follows:

  • research outputs - 65 per cent
  • impact - 20 per cent (this will increase in subsequent REFs)
  • environment - 15 per cent.

Explicitly recognising the positive impact of excellent research is new to research assessment in HEIs; the concept was first developed following the previous research assessment exercise in 2008. In 2009, the UK funding bodies set out proposals for including the assessment of research impact in the REF. Its inclusion reflects their policy of maintaining and improving the achievements of the higher education sector, both in undertaking excellent research and in building on this research to achieve demonstrable benefits to the wider economy and society.

Assessment of the impact of research will be based on expert review of case studies submitted by HEIs. The use of case studies for this purpose was tested in a pilot exercise in 2010: expert panels concluded that assessment of the impact of research through such an approach could work, and identified improvements to the pilot process for implementation in the full REF. Feedback from the universities involved in the pilot exercise and subsequent discussions with interested parties also supported their use.

In determining the appropriate weighting, the UK funding bodies considered that 25 per cent for impact would give due recognition to the economic and social benefits of excellent research. However, given that the impact assessment in the 2014 REF will still be developmental to some extent, the weighting of impact in the first REF will be 20 per cent, with the intention of increasing this in subsequent exercises. The assessment of research outputs will account for 65 per cent, and environment will account for 15 per cent, of the overall assessment outcomes in the 2014 REF. These weightings will apply to all units of assessment.

The funding bodies will continue to work in partnership with the academic community and a wide range of stakeholders including the private, public and third sectors, to develop the assessment criteria in more detail.

David Sweeney, Director (Research, Innovation, and Skills) of HEFCE, said:

'We have now confirmed the main elements of the new Research Excellence Framework which will allow it to take place as planned in 2014. The explicit assessment of impact in the REF for the first time demonstrates the importance placed on research outside the research community. It will enable universities to rigorously demonstrate the success of their research and the significant contribution it makes to the economy and society.'

 

Notes

  1. The REF is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It replaces the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and will be completed in 2014 to allow the results to inform funding allocations from 2015-16. The REF will be undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies. The exercise is managed by the REF team based at HEFCE and overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four UK HE funding bodies.
  2. The three elements in assessment for the REF are:
    • The quality of research outputs - these are articles, books or other research outputs submitted for assessment.
    • Impact - these will be in the form of case studies which demonstrate that the HEI's research has made a distinctive social, economic or cultural impact outside academia.
    • The research environment - this will be information about the quality of the environment within which the research is conducted.
  3. More information about the REF