REF or the Research Excellence Framework is an assessment exercise which occurs every 6-7 years led by Research England. The assessment of each discipline is done, primarily, by academic peers.

Three things are assessed: outputs (60% publications and other types of outputs), impact (25% - this is an increase from REF2014) and environment (15%) and we make our submissions at the discipline level.

OUTPUTS: Unlike previous exercises, the number of outputs submitted will vary with all eligible staff required to submit at least one output but no more than five for assigned to any one person.

IMPACT: this is assessed based on 5-page case studies which highlight specific examples of impact which happened between 2013 and 2020 and which have emerged as a result of research.

ENVIRONMENT: this is a narrative for each discipline which looks retrospectively over the period and sets out a vision for future years about that disciplines research and impact strategy, how it nurtures its people (existing and new staff, early career researchers and PhDs students), its track record and strategy for attracting funding and access to facilities, and, how partnerships and collaboration are supported and what contributions Exeter’s academics make to the discipline as a whole.

The key impact of REF on the University is receiving research funding to support salaries and research activities. REF Quality-Related (QR) funding is a block grant of annual funding to support the exciting research of members of staff and doctoral students across different Colleges and disciplines, this can include salaries, research leave or specific research initiatives.

As a result of the last REF exercise, Exeter had 2.2% share of mainstream QR. Approximately 22% of our research income is QR funding.
In the last REF, 98% of our research was deemed world-leading or internationally excellent. This was really important in positioning Exeter’s strengths and to showcase some of our successes.

The amount of funding we receive is based on a calculation of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) of the staff returned with a multiplier based on the grades given to the three areas of impact, environment and outputs. FTE is based on very specific rules for eligibility of staff at Exeter on a specific date, in this case 31st July 2020. So, staff numbers are importance for financial return; however, the assessment is done on the discipline as a whole rather than by focusing on each individual.

Publish my best work and nominate that work when asked by my Director of Research;
Register for ORCID;
Understand the policies and process by reading the Code of Practice;
Support your Head of Department, Director of Research or Director of Impact in building your discipline’s REF2021 submission; this might be through:

  • Contributions to impact-related activities, some of which will be case studies and others showcased in the environment statement;
  • Supporting requests for those other academic activities like being on editorial boards or research partnerships.

REF2021 is not an exercise of individual scrutiny but an assessment of a discipline as a whole, therefore, is no reason to be concerned. Your career progression is not linked to whether you were, or are, eligible for REF on a particular REF census date. Research England, the many academics involved in REF panels, and the universities submitting to REF, are committed to ensuring that an individual’s career progression is decoupled from the REF discipline-level assessment. After the assessment, the list of eligible staff submitted will not be published (§20 Exeter's Code of Practice). Although the lists of publications submitted will be available after the assessment exercise, they will not include the authors’ names (§39 REF Guidance on submissions).

You can also read about this in University of Exeter’s Code of Practice on Submission of Category A eligible staff.

  • Para 20. The REF2021 guidance notes that the names of Staff members returned and their associated Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data will not be published.

To go further, the REF2021 guidance provides the following indications on Publication of result and submissions.

  • Para 39. We will separately list the details of submitted research outputs, and these will not be listed by author name (…). We will include submitted textual information about impact and the research environment. Information on the attribution of outputs to individual staff members will not be published. Any personal data contained in the outputs themselves, the impact case studies and environment statements will not be removed before publication.

Unlike previous exercises, each eligible member of staff is not required to submit four outputs. Instead each eligible member of staff is required to submit a minimum of one output and no more than five. This flexibility is there to recognise that the volume of outputs produced in a REF cycle can vary. Moreover, REF will also take into account an individual’s circumstances, particularly where someone has not been able to produce an output during the REF period.

In the end, one has to keep in mind that submitting to the REF2021 is a team effort: everyone contributes towards the discipline research environment in different ways. It is a collective process in order to gain more Quality-related income for the benefit of everyone.

Members of staff on research contracts may be eligible for REF provided they meet the REF2021 definition of an independent researcher (see Section 3 of the Code of Practice). Meeting the REF2021 definition of Independent researcher is not a judgement on the quality of the work you have produced. Our Code of Practice lays out the indicators we will be using, which is aligned withREF guidance, to determine this eligibility. Don’t worry if you don’t meet the eligibility criteria this time round. You are already contributing to REF in a number of different ways. 

iI you meet the eligibility criteria but you don’t have an output – if you are in the early stages of your career or have experienced other circumstances, it may be that the minimum requirement can be waived. Make sure that you complete an individual circumstances form.  

Take any opportunities to be involved in REF when you can, and use it to learn more about what is happening within your discipline at Exeter. This might be in having the opportunity to read each other’s work, contributing to the development of the environment template or the opportunity to review or articulate the impact of research.

REF Eligibility

The University has now achieved the preliminary stage of the procedure for determining Independant Researchers. You will receive a letter, or an invitation to complete a form. If you have any queries please contact your Director of Research or REF-2021-Eligibility@exeter.ac.uk

Don't worry, we will get in touch with you. We will send you a letter or an invitation to complete a form.  If you have any queries please contact your Director of Research or REF-2021-Eligibility@exeter.ac.uk.

No. Provided the member of staff is on a 0.2 FTE contract or higher on the census date, the same requirement of output numbers applies irrespective of whether theirs is a 0.2 FTE contract a 0.7 FTE contract or a 1.0 FTE contract, i.e. a minimum of one output must be returned and no more than five outputs can be returned. The minimum and maximum limits on the number of outputs will apply to the person, not their FTE.

The only thing to remember is that if a contract is between 0.2 and 0.29 FTE we are required to provide some justification as to the role that individual plays within the UoA and their substantive connection.

The REF2021 guidance provides the following guidance on demonstrating a substantive connection:

Para 123. For staff employed on minimum fractional contracts (0.20 to 0.29 FTE) on the census date, the HEI will need to provide a short statement (up to 200 words) evidencing the clear connection of the staff member with the submitting unit. A range of indicators is likely to evidence a substantive connection, including but not limited to:

  • evidence of participation in and contribution to the unit’s research environment, such as involvement in research centres or clusters, research leadership activities, supervision of research staff, or supervision of postgraduate research (PGR) students;
  • evidence of wider involvement in the institution, for example through teaching, knowledge exchange, administrative, and/or governance roles and responsibilities;
  • evidence of research activity focused in the institution (such as through publication affiliation, shared grant applications or grants held with the HEI);
  • period of time with the institution (including prospective time, as indicated through length of contract).

For each UoA, we must submit 2.5 outputs on average for each person [FTE]. So you take the number of FTE*2.5 with a minimum of 1 output - - and a maximum of 5 outputs per FTE. Reductions may be to the output pool on the basis of individual circumstances.

The University of Exeter’s Code of Practice assesses on Definition of Category A eligible staff that:

  • Para 17. All staff on E&R contracts of 0.2 FTE or more at the University of Exeter are deemed to be eligible and the intention is that 100% of those members of staff will be returned. As 100% of staff on “teaching and research” or E&R contracts will be returned, no further selection process for staff on E&R contracts is required.
  • Para 18. A minimum of one output (and no more than five outputs) will be submitted for each member of staff on an E&R contract. Units of Assessment (UoAs) will return an average of 2.5 outputs per FTE submitted for each UoA.
  • Para 19. However, in line with REF2021 guidance, members of staff being submitted to REF2021 may be eligible to have the minimum requirement of one output waived due to individual circumstances (e.g. early career status, family leave etc. see Section 4 and Appendix 10 below). Even if the minimum requirement for one output is waived, those members of staff will still be deemed to have been returned for submission to REF2021 and will count within the FTE reported on the formal census date of 31st July 2020.

No, we cannot submit you or your outputs.;

The REF2021 guidance notes that only those who have a Teaching and Research contract (known as Education and Research at Exeter) or a Research-only contract (known as a Research contract at Exeter) can be considered for submission.

If however, you were previously employed by the University on an “Education and Research” (E&R) contract or a Research-only (if Research-only, we would need to be clear that at the time you would have been deemed an independent researcher) and you no longer have significant responsibility for research, we may be able to submit any outputs produced whilst at Exeter. However, you will not be included in the staff FTE submitted.  

Research England REF FAQ