For the current REF, see the REF 2029 website | For REF 2021, see the REF 2021 website
You are in : Home » About the REF » Guidance and criteria » Data management

REF data management

The information on this page was published whilst the exercise was being conducted; this material is provided for background information only and will not be updated.

This page sets out what data we will collect in the REF, how we will process the data, and the arrangements regarding personal, sensitive and confidential data.

Data which will be submitted to the REF

Each HEI taking part in the REF is required to submit a code of practice on the selection of staff to include in their REF submissions.

Each submission that HEIs make to the REF will contain the following data:

  • Information on staff in post on the census date, 31 October 2013, selected by the institution to be included in the submission; individual staff circumstances for those submitting fewer than four outputs; and details of Category C staff.
  • Details of research outputs that selected staff have produced during the publication period.
  • A completed template describing the submitted unit’s approach to enabling impact from its research, and case studies describing specific examples of impacts underpinned by the unit’s research.
  • Data about research doctoral degrees awarded and research income.
  • A completed template describing the research environment.

Further details about the information required in submissions are set out in 'guidance on submissions'.

How we will process the data

We will collect, store and process all information submitted by HEIs to the REF in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Information will be submitted to the REF via a secure website. HEIs will be able to access only their own institution’s data, except in the case of joint submissions where HEIs can grant access to other HEIs in the joint submission. Information will be processed for the purposes of conducting and evaluating the REF. Information may be shared with other organisations to facilitate this, and will be shared with panel members (comprising panel chairs, members, assessors, advisers, secretaries and observers) for the purpose of assessing submissions. Panel members are all bound by confidentiality and data security arrangements.

We will extract and pass to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) the following data to enable verification: for each individual submitted as research-active in Category A, their Unit of Assessment, HESA staff identifier code, and date of birth. We will use information from HEIs to monitor the diversity of staff selected for the REF. We will also publish parts of submissions on the internet.

Model staff data collection notice

The Data Protection Act requires institutions to inform their staff as to how data about them that is submitted to the REF will be used. To assist institutions in ensuring that individuals included in their submissions are aware of these uses, we have provided a model staff data collection notice for REF2014, which institutions can adapt to their own circumstances.

Confidentiality and data security arrangements for REF panels

We will provide REF panel members with the information contained in submissions that is necessary for the panel to carry out its assessment. All panel members are bound by confidentiality and data security arrangements. These arrangements have been updated to cover panel members' specific obligations during the assessment phase, including their treatment of confidential and sensitive information in submissions. 

Confidentiality arrangements (updated January 2013)

Download the Confidentiality arrangements (PDF) as PDF (94 KB) | ‌


Sensitive and confidential data

Arrangements have been put in place to enable submissions to include sensitive or confidential data. These arrangements are set out in the following web-pages:

Publication of data

The primary outcome of the REF will be an overall quality profile for each submission, and these will be published in December 2014.

We will publish the following further reports and feedback from the exercise early in 2015:

  • The output, impact and environment sub-profiles for each submission that were combined to produce the overall quality profiles.
  • Minutes of the sub-panel and main panel meetings for the assessment phase of the REF.
  • General reports by the main panels, the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel, and the REF manager.

We will provide concise feedback on each submission, summarising the reason for the quality profile awarded, to the head of the institution concerned. In the case of joint submissions, we will provide this feedback confidentially to the heads of all of the institutions involved.

We will also publish submissions on the internet, in spring 2015. The published submissions will include:

  • the institution’s code of practice
  • the names of selected staff (but not personal and contractual details)
  • a list of the submitted research outputs
  • the submitted data on research doctoral degrees awarded and research income
  • the submitted textual information about impact and the research environment.

The submission software will include a facility for HEIs to redact the names of any staff, listed outputs, impact case studies or textual data that should be omitted from the published submissions for specific reasons, such as commercial sensitivity or security. For further detailed guidance see 'Excluding parts of submissions from publication'.