REF 2021

With Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 fast approaching, UK Universities are working intensely in its preparation. The stakes are high as it is an opportunity for Universities to establish themselves as the premier academic research institute in the UK.  Know More

Impact Science and REF 2021

Impact Science REF experts work with Universities to help them maximize engagement with research, provide strong evidence of the impact of research, and turn them into compelling case studies, freeing up academics to do what they do best – Research and teach.

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

Supporting Research Impact
for REF 2021

Impact Science provides comprehensive support to Universities throughout the research project life cycle, and beyond. This includes dissemination and engagement services to maximize the impact of research, evaluation services to provide the all-important evidence of research to underpin REF case studies, and impact writing to ensure that each case study is as strong as it can possibly be.

Our teams provide support in four key areas that can impact REF scores: Impact Science has the expertise and capability to boost a University’s REF performance and to help make substantial improvements in its QR funding.


What is REF 2021?

Introduced in 2014, the REF replaced the previous research assessment exercise that was carried out in the UK. REF 2021 is the latest in a series of periodic assessments of the quality of research in UK universities. It assesses university research according to three criteria:

Academic quality of research publications
Non-academic impact of the research
University environment that supports research
Based on the assessment, academic institutes are graded on a four-star system
Five Star

Quality that is world-leading in originality, significance, and rigour

Three Star

Quality that is internationally excellent in originality, significance, and rigour but falls short of the highest standards of excellence

Two Star

Quality that is recognised internationally in originality, significance, and rigour

One Star

Quality that is recognised nationally in originality, significance, and rigour

Unclassified quality: Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work or does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment

In order to ensure that their research carries the best weightage among others, universities and academic leaders are deeply involved in the preparations, including the following:

  • Assessing the quality of the journal articles, books, monographs, and other research outputs they have produced
  • Crafting case studies to showcase the impact of their research on the non-scientific world
  • Collecting data on their performance on grant capture, postgraduate training, and all the other aspects of a strong research environment

REF’s purpose & importance

The primary purpose of the REF is to determine the allocation of quality-related (QR) funding to universities. The policy aim for funding bodies is to secure a world-class, dynamic, and responsive research base across the higher education sector in the UK, and the REF is the key method for assessing this.

The QR block grant is worth around £2 billion per year in total, and universities use this funding to support strategic initiatives in research, as well as to provide support for researchers. But it’s not just about the money. The performance of a university in the REF impacts its reputation. Moreover, it can also enhance the reputation of research groups or individuals who have contributed strongly to their institution’s REF score.

Role of non-academic impact in REF 2021

Since 2014, the REF has included the non-academic impact of research as a specific and important aspect of the assessment. Therefore, it is imperative for universities to ensure that their research can translate into benefits for the society. In terms of QR allocation, a top-rated case study is worth a six-figure sum across the REF cycle.

This explicit focus on impact has driven universities to increase their investment in research communications, engagement with non-academic organizations, and collecting evidence of the benefits of their research. Communicating research to non-academic audiences through case studies, graphical summaries, infographic data representations, and interactive websites is increasingly important as a way to impact, and evaluating the reach and significance of the impact is vital for the REF.

The current level of impact support in a university is largely a function of how responsive the senior management has been to the impact officer’s case for broader support.

Academic Brands Which Trust Our Expertise

Case Studies

Analysing the Risks in UK Pension Scheme: Evaluation of the Impact of the King’s College London Research

King’s College London (KCL) is one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities. KCL ranks among the top universities in the world: founded in 1829, it is a leading research-led institution with 7,200 staff and a turnover of more than £680 million.

Evaluating Impact of the PROV Data Model: How Impact Science gathered evidence for REF 2021 for King’s College London and Newcastle University

King’s College London (KCL) and Newcastle University are two of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities.

Evolving Alongside Technology: The Academy of Management’s Journey into a Digital Future

Rooted in the industrial revolution, maturing with the digital revolution: The Academy of Management works with Impact Science to drive change and success

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