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The assessment of research conducted in UK universities via REF was a success, and for the first time introduced an assessment of the impact of research on the economy and society. The results demonstrated an overall improvement in UK research excellence across the board.  

The REF Accountability Review, carried out by Technopolis for the four UK higher education funding bodies, looks at the costs incurred by universities from participating in the 2014 REF, as well as the benefits. Its findings demonstrate the continued efficiency of the exercise, and reaffirm the range of benefits arising from participation.

The total cost of the exercise is estimated to be £246 million, which is less than 1 per cent of the total public funding invested in research over the six-year period of an assessment cycle (Note 1). The calculated cost per submitted researcher is close to 1 per cent of the average researcher’s salary, including on-costs, over the same period. Technopolis notes that the estimated costs may be inflated by the inclusion of activity that is part of core research management in institutions, and draws attention to the good value for money achieved from REF outcomes.

The review also identifies significant variability in the costs incurred by institutions, reflecting differing levels of investment by institutions, including in the area of research management and information systems.

The review of the costs, benefit and burden for the sector was required in view of the significant changes introduced in to the REF from its predecessor, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The new features of the REF methodology such as arrangements for individual staff circumstances and impact assessment have been widely welcomed by institutions but have contributed to the additional cost.

We look forward to working with the sector over the coming months to carry forward the benefits arising from the exercise, as well as exploring ways in which the costs could be reduced.

Notes

  1. Based on 2013-14 funding over a six-year period.
  2. Read the report 'REF Accountability Review: Costs, benefits and burden'