This is the University of Aberdeen Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014) website. The site contains key information relating to the REF2014.
What is the REF2014
The REF2014 is a sector-wide assessment exercise of publicly funded research in the UK. The REF2014 replaces the Research Assessment Exercise, which last took place in 2008 (RAE2008). All Universities that receive funding from any of the Higher Education Funding Councils are invited to present selected research for assessment in to the REF2014 exercise. The assessment is carried out by panels of peers and research users in 36 subject areas, referred to in the REF2014 as Units of Assessment. In total there are four Main Panels and 36 sub-Panels. The exercise is selective, with the expectation that institutions will select only excellent work for submission, and not all research. At the end of the assessment, each institution will receive a quality profile for each Unit of Assessment to which it submitted.
The University REF2014 Steering Group
The University’s REF2014 submission will be coordinated at both College level and centrally, and will be overseen by the institutional REF2014 Steering Group.
Defining Research in a REF2014 Context
The definition of research within a REF2014 context, as given by HEFCE in the Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions document, is as follows:
- For the purposes of the REF, research is defined as a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared.
- It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce, industry, and to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, artefacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and routine analysis of materials, components and processes such as for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques. It also excludes the development of teaching materials that do not embody original research.
- It includes research that is published, disseminated or made publicly available in the form of assessable research outputs, and confidential reports
Why is the REF2014 Important?
The REF2014 is hugely important for a number of reasons. First, it allows for benchmarking standards of research against other institutions across the sector within the UK. This brings with it a reputational issue, and should be seen as an opportunity for research Units within the University to demonstrate their research excellence. The quality profile achieved by the University in the REF2014 will also inform the block research grant allocation it receives from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) from 2015 onwards.
For any additional information on the REF2014, please visit the HEFCE REF2014 website.
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What will be Assessed?
The REF2014 will assess three key research areas, as follows:
- Research Outputs (65%)
- Research Impact (20%)
- Research Environment (15%)
The most important of these is the assessment of research outputs. Each academic member of staff who is selected for submission will normally have to provide four research outputs for inclusion. These will be assessed by the sub-Panels. Approximately half of the sub-Panels (mainly in the STEM subjects) will take into account the citation counts of the submitted research outputs to inform their decisions. Assessment of research outputs will account for 65% of each submission’s overall quality rating. The citation counts will be provided to the REF panels via Scopus, and will refer to the research outputs submitted.
After the research output element of the assessment exercise, the non-academic impact of research is the next most significant area to be assessed. This will also be assessed by Unit of Assessment, via submission of a pre-determined number of “impact case studies” (number of case studies varying dependant on FTE per Unit) and by assessing how the research environment and research strategy within each Unit supports and facilitates non-academic research impact. The assessment of research impact is new to the REF2014 and will account for 20% of the overall quality profile within each Unit.
The research output and impact elements of each submission will be accompanied by a narrative which describes the research environment of each Unit of Assessment. The “research environment” element of the assessment accounts for 15% of each submission. The research environment element assesses research facilities, research strategy, research metrics, career development opportunities, with particular emphasis on early career researchers and postgraduate students, and on equality and diversity issues.
For further information on how submissions will be assessed, please access;
Alternatively, these documents are available on the HEFCE website via the following link: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/research/ref/pubs/
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What do the quality Ratings Mean?
For the overall quality profile for each Unit of Assessment the quality ratings are as follows:
Quality that is world leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour
Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence
Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour
Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour
Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment
For each of the three elements of the assessment – outputs, impact and environment – sub-panels will develop a sub-profile, showing the proportion of the submission that meets each of four starred quality levels.
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How will the University Select Staff for Submission?
Final decisions on the selection of staff for submission to the exercise will be made by the institutional REF2014 Steering Group, in consultation with the Colleges. The REF2014 Steering Group has overarching responsibility for managing and coordinating the University’s submission to the REF2014. Decisions on inclusion for submission will be based largely on research quality.
In making decisions on inclusion, the University, via the REF2014 Steering Group, will adhere to its internal REF2014 Equality and Diversity Code of Practice, as required by the Funding Councils. The University's REF2014 Equality and Diversity Code of Practice was approved via the University Court at its meeting on 6 December 2011 and has now been submitted to the national REF2014 Team (HEFCE) for formal approval.
To download a copy of the University's REF2014 Equality and Diversity Code of Practice, as submitted to the REF2014 Team, please click here.
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Equality and Diversity Overview – Short Course
For colleagues who would like a short and concise overview of the key equality and diversity issues central to the REF2014, the institution has purchased a short-course which covers the key points. This can be accessed via the following link (this takes you to MyAberdeen, where you can login in using your standard University login):
REF2014 - Equality and Diversity Overview Course
If colleagues are experiencing any problems accessing the course, please contact Iain Grant (email@example.com) or email firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
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Schedule of Preparations
The University has developed a detailed schedule for preparing for the REF2014 submission. This schedule is aligned to the HEFCE schedule, as released by the HEFCE REF Team, and is regularly updated to reflect progress and changing demands. The University timetable is managed by the institutional REF2014 Steering Group, and can be accessed via the link below:
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Individual Staff Circumstances
The REF2014 recognises that, for some members of staff, personal circumstances during the assessment period may have significantly constrained their ability to conduct research and produce the required number of research outputs for submission. Where this is the case, the number of outputs to be returned may be reduced.
The REF2014 Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions document sets out the circumstances in which fewer than four outputs may be selected. The REF2014 differentiates between clearly defined and more complex individual circumstances. Clearly defined circumstances have been given as follows:
- Qualifying as an Early Career Researchers
- Part-Time working
- Maternity, paternity or adoption leave
- Secondments or career breaks outside of the higher education sector
- Other circumstances that apply specifically to UoAs 1-6 (as specified in paragraph 86 of the Panel Criteria and Working Methods: Generic Statement of Assessment Criteria and Working Methods).
The REF2014 team have published details on the permitted number of reductions in relation to these circumstances.
Circumstances that are more complex and require a judgement about the appropriate number of outputs that can be reduced without penalty have been given as follows:
- Disability (as defined in the equality act 2010)
- Ill health or injury
- Mental health conditions
- Constraints related to pregnancy or maternity (in addition to clearly defined maternity leave)
- Childcare or other caring responsibilities
- Gender reassignment
- Other circumstances relating to protected characteristics
For staff with more complex individual circumstances, the institutional REF2014 Steering Group will be required to make a judgement on the appropriate reduction in the number of outputs required, and to provide a rationale for this judgement when making their submission. The final decision on whether to accept any case put forward by a submitting Unit will rest with the REF2014 Manager.
Staff who have individual circumstances which need to be taken in to consideration for the REF2014 must complete and return the Individual Staff Circumstances Disclosure Form.
For further information on individual staff circumstances, please see:
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The University will be using Pure, our research information system, to manage the collation of selected research outputs for submission to the REF2014. This will be done by use of the “REF2014 Module” in Pure (designed specifically to facilitate online submission to the REF2014). The REF2014 Module will allow staff to propose research outputs for submission, and will allow Unit of Assessment leads and others involved in the preparation of the submission to manage the selected outputs element (REF 2) online. We hope to submit all elements of REF 2 directly from Pure into the REF2014 submission system.
This means that the information on all publications submitted will have been validated by the University Library, and we have the option to include full texts of outputs from the University repository, AURA. The system relies on academic staff keeping the information on research publications in PURE within the REF2014 assessment period (1 January 2008 to 31 December 2013) up to date, either by adding new publications manually or enabling the self import functionality within the system (which currently enables self import and scanning services from Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed and the University of Aberdeen Library Catalogue).
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Please find a number of documents key REF2014 below.
Impact Related Links:
In order to access the additional documentation on Impact listed below, as released by HEFCE following the Impact Pilot Exercise (2010);
- HEFCE Impact Pilot Exercise Expert Panel Findings.
- Feedback from the Higher Education Institutions Involved in the Pilot.
- Examples of impact case studies best practice, as submitted to the pilot exercise
Please visit the following link: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/research/ref/impact/
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News and Updates
This section of University REF2014 web-pages will be regularly updated with internal information and supplements relating to the University’s preparations for the REF2014.
- The University held a number of information sessions on the REF2014 and our institutional preparations throughout August and September 2012. These were open to all research staff and other colleagues with an interest in the REF2014. The presentation delivered to attendees is available here: download presentation
- The University hosted a number of Impact Workshops in February 2012. The supplementary papers distributed to Workshop attendees are available here: download supplementary papers
- The presentation delivered to Workshop attendees is available here: download Powerpoint presentation
- On 30 January 2012, the University released a communication which included instructions to research active staff on using the REF2014 Module in Pure to propose research outputs for submission to the REF2014.
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- Professor Phil Hannaford
Vice Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange (Strategy and REF2014)
tel: (01224) 437211
- Marlis Barraclough
Senior Policy Advisor for Research
tel: (01224) 272038
- Iain Grant
Policy Advisor for Research
tel: (01224) 272776
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