The analysis is published to coincide with REFlections, the first national conference on REF 2014, on Wednesday 25 March 2015 (Note 1). It was carried out by Digital Science and King’s College London, and co-funded by the UK higher education funding bodies, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust (Note 2).
The REF impact case studies were produced as part of the ground-breaking assessment of research impact included in REF 2014. For the first time, universities participating in the UK’s national assessment of research quality were invited to provide examples of the wider impact of their research as part of their submissions.
This latest work has produced the REF impact case study database, a searchable tool enabling analysis and automated text mining of the case studies (Note 3). The database will encourage and enable further analysis of the case studies by any interested parties in the UK and internationally.
Commenting on the new impact case study research and database, Professor Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:
‘Following the outstanding success of the Research Excellence Framework, showing that UK research leads the world, this analysis shows that as well as being of the highest quality, the research that UK universities undertake has a very positive impact across all areas of the economy and society.
‘I urge research users to mine this rich source of information, which is now easily accessible, to make the most of the impact case studies.
‘We and the other UK funding bodies will look closely at the findings of the reviews and consider carefully how the impact case study process can be further improved for the next REF’.
An initial synthetic analysis of the REF impact case studies has also been undertaken in a report ‘The nature, scale and beneficiaries of research impact’ (Note 4). Its key findings include that:
This 'impact' element of the REF has now been evaluated which will lead to further improvements for future REF exercises.
The two-phase evaluation, conducted by RAND Europe, focused first on the preparation of submissions on 'impact' by HEIs and then on the process for assessing impact by the REF panels (Note 5).
The evaluation has highlighted a number of positive features of the impact assessment, including a range of benefits for HEIs in preparing submissions. It underlines the panels’ view that the process has enabled them to assess 'impact' in a fair, reliable and robust way. The evaluation also draws out some of the challenges for institutions and panels, including an additional burden in preparing the submissions.
The funding bodies welcome the findings of the 'impact' evaluation and look forward to refining the assessment process in consultation with the sector.
Further details of the conference are available on our website.