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RTP 18-19 - The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021


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We live in an age of research measurement. In this session we consider the current form of the REF, how it effects both a university’s relationship with research and the developing careers of early-career researchers. The session will also consider what you can do to make sure you are best equipped and ‘in the know’ for the demands of the REF once you apply for and start an academic job.

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RTP 18-19 - The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

  1. 1. The Research Excellence Framework 2021: what you need to know… Steve Miles, Head of PAHC
  2. 2. What is the REF designed to do…? • To provide accountability for public investment in research; • To provide benchmarking information so research quality can be compared across subject areas and universities; • To inform the allocation of resources. In other words the government distributes funding on the basis of what is achieved in the REF (otherwise known as QR funding).
  3. 3. Full listing of all units of assessment (UoA) Main panel Unit of assessment A 1 Clinical Medicine 2 Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care 3 Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy 4 Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience 5 Biological Sciences 6 Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science B 7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences 8 Chemistry 9 Physics 10 Mathematical Sciences 11 Computer Science and Informatics 12 Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering 13 Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials 14 Civil and Construction Engineering 15 General Engineering C 16 Architecture, Built Environment and Planning 17 Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology 18 Economics and Econometrics 19 Business and Management Studies 20 Law 21 Politics and International Studies 22 Social Work and Social Policy 23 Sociology 24 Anthropology and Development Studies 25 Education 26 Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism D 27 Area Studies 28 Modern Languages and Linguistics 29 English Language and Literature 30 History 31 Classics 32 Philosophy 33 Theology and Religious Studies 34 Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory 35 Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts 36 Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
  4. 4. What are the key components of the REF? 1) Outputs – accounting for 60% (previously 65%) of the assessment and including all outputs produced 1st Jan 2014 – 31st December 2020; 2) Impact - accounting for 25% of the assessment + consisting of case studies detailing, broadly, the real world benefits of key research specialisms over time. The number of Impact Case Studies submitted = 1 for every 10 members of staff; 3) Environment 15% - describes the environment that supports research including research strategy, staff development, support for Postgraduate Research, collaboration inside and outside of academia, plus equality and diversity.
  5. 5. Key changes to REF 2021 • All those “with a significant responsibility for research” must be included; • Staff must submit 1 to 5 outputs; • An increased emphasis on Impact.
  6. 6. REF as a political quagmire • Institutional REF strategies and teaching only contracts; • Big Brother may or may not be watching you; • Pre-REF exercise and reviews; • Deciding which UoAs get submitted; • Telling a post-REF story; • Publishing strategically.
  7. 7. How you can be “REF-ready” in the future… • Produce quality work, but think where might be the best place for it. Aim high! • Talk about where you might publish with your supervisor and then later your colleagues; • Ensure your work is on your institution’s repository (once appointed); • Present yourself at interview as REF-savvy and as a strategic researcher with 3 and 4* outputs – know the lingo! • Have a narrative around your research (which also touches upon research-led teaching) and one that ideally includes academic and non-academic impact; • Pay careful attention to the tone of your work and situate it appropriately and with confidence.
  8. 8. What constitutes original research? Original research findings can vary by type more than you think • research reports • Practice • evidence synthesis, including systematic reviews, analyses, meta-analyses, meta- syntheses • review articles that add significant new perspective in a way that is paradigm-changing • research-based case studies that add new knowledge or understanding • methodological and theoretical work • technology appraisals. There is NO SUCH THING AS A 4* JOURNAL • Impact factors or journals don’t matter, and are not used by REF panels. • Despite this everyone knows what the strong journals in a particular field are so it is more likely that work in a high-quality journal is going to be rated 3 and 4*
  9. 9. What to avoid….. Avoid indications of ‘lightweight’ research • Phrases like “pilot study” or “small study” are likely to be marked down • “Based on my PhD”… seen as initial training!!! Provide appropriate contextualization • “This is the first study to…” • “This is the largest and most detailed investigation of” • Ensure that any literature review draws on genuine evidence base including international papers if relevant Avoid methodological claptrap • Avoid too much philosophical noodling in the qualitative approaches – get to the results • Be careful with Grounded Theory • Present and exploit data properly; emphasise strong ‘samples’ Be direct – it’s all about the contribution and making that explicit!!!