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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Assessing interdisciplinary research

What are the challenges?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) (Note 1) is conducted on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies (Note 2). These bodies are committed to supporting and promoting the fair and equitable assessment of all research submitted to the assessment exercise.

The Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP) has been established to advise the REF team, REF panel chairs and the UK funding bodies on the approach to support the submission and assessment of interdisciplinary research in the REF. The panel will advise on whether it should have a specific role in the submissions and assessment phase of the next REF in summer 2018, following the completion of its initial work.

Professor Dame Athene Donald, who is Master of Churchill College Cambridge and a Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, has been appointed as Chair of IDAP. Her research is inherently interdisciplinary and sits at the interface of physics with biology. Professor Donald has extensive experience with research assessment, being previously a member of the physics panel in the impact pilot exercise for REF2014, a member of the physics sub-panel in the 2008 RAE and a special adviser to the Allied Health Professions and Studies sub-panel (RAE2008). Athene is also a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council and a former Trustee of the Science Museum.

IDAP includes members from across the UK. Members were appointed following a nominations process, and include experienced researchers with extensive interdisciplinary and research assessment experience. A number of them have been actively engaged in recent interdisciplinary research policy research undertaken by HEFCE, Research Councils UK and the British Academy. A list of members can be found on the HEFCE website (Note 3).

Dr Kim Hackett, REF manager, said:

‘We are delighted to announce Athene as Chair of IDAP and the full membership of the panel, that collectively bring a wealth of knowledge and experience about interdisciplinary research from across the UK. We look forward to working with the group to support the submission and ensure fair and equitable assessment of interdisciplinary research during the next REF.’

Professor Dame Athene Donald said:

‘I am pleased and excited to be chairing the REF’s first group specifically addressing this critically important area. I look forward to working with the panel to ensure that interdisciplinary research is considered effectively in all stages of the REF planning.’


1. The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The most recent exercise concluded in 2014. The REF is a peer review assessment process involving senior UK academics, users of research from organisations beyond higher education and international advisers. The results of the REF are used to drive the UK higher education funding bodies’ annual distribution of research funding to UK universities.

2. The four UK funding 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 the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE).

3. See members of the interdisciplinary research panel.