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Impact case studies (REF3b)

Latest FAQs (September 2013)

Can we complete the templates REF3a, 3b and REF5 without a border?

Yes. From September 2013 templates were made available with and without borders. This follows institutional feedback that the templates with borders were difficult to use when inserting tables and diagrams. The REF team have revised guidance to allow the template to be completed without borders, if preferred. The section headings provided within the 'no borders' templates should not be changed. Changes should not be made to the margins, headers or footers provided in the templates.

(The templates are available within the REF Submission system and on the REF website).

Who should have carried out the research underpinning an impact, in order for it to be eligible as an impact case study?
The research underpinning an impact must have been carried out by staff 'while working in the submitting HEI'. This may include research undertaken by unpaid staff or staff who would have been considered as 'Category C' in a former RAE, on the basis that their research was clearly focussed in the submitting HEI. The individuals need not be working in the submitting HEI on the census date but must have been at the time they carried out the underpinning research. Research undertaken by research students is not considered as having been carried out by staff while working in the submitting HEI.
Can we make any changes to the impact case study template?

The template format and page limits stated at Annex F of the 'guidance on submissions' must be adhered to. Changes should not be made to the margins, headers or footers provided in the template. You may use a template with or without borders (see revised guidance). The template also includes section headings for the impact case study; these may not be removed. However, the text stating the indicative word limits and number of references may be removed from your final submission if you wish.

(Updated September 2013)

Previous FAQs

Can diagrams and other images be included in an impact case study?
Yes. The information provided in an impact case study may be presented in any form the institution considers to be appropriate. This may include tables and non-text content, so long as the guidance on maximum page limits and minimum font size, line spacing and margin widths are adhered to.
How many corroborating statements/individual contacts can be provided in an impact case study?

A total of five individuals to corroborate an impact case study can be provided. This may include any combination of statements already gathered by the institution and individuals who can be contacted by the REF team.

We do not envisage auditing more than five statements for any particular case study, which is why we have set this limit. The corroborating sources listed should focus on the key claims made within the case study. If a larger number of individuals could potentially provide such corroboration, then five should be selected that best represent this larger group.

How can we ensure that case studies will not be seen by panel members or assessors with commercial conflicts of interest?

Guidance on 'REF data management' provides information on the arrangements regarding case studies that include confidential or sensitive data.

The REF submission system contains a field 'Conflicted panel members' which can be used to identify panel members or assessors that should not be able to view the case study, due to commercial conflicts. However, if a member or assessor becomes unable to participate we may replace them, and will update the panel membership on the REF website to reflect such changes. Since the panel membership may change over time, in addition to the guidance above, HEIs can use the 'Conflicted panel members' field to identify companies or organisations that should not have access to the case study. Any impact case study with data in the 'conflicted panel member' field will not be circulated to the whole sub-panel; it will be made available only to the specific individuals who are assessing the case study. When the sub-panel chairs allocate the case studies to individual members/assessors, they will not allocate the case studies to individuals or organisations identified in the 'conflicted panel members' field.

Where an individual moved to the HEI after 1 January 2008, and their research had a continuing impact that started before they joined the HEI, which part of the impact can the HEI claim?
The HEI can claim the impact from the point at which research carried out by staff while working in the HEI made a distinct and material contribution to it. Any impact prior to that point can be described in the case study as context only (to help explain the background the impact), but cannot be claimed as part of the impact underpinned by the submitting HEI's research.
What action should an HEI take if the source to corroborate an impact case study is in a language other than English?

If the corroborating evidence is a pre-existing document not available in English, the HEI should reference the document and state what language it is in. The REF team will use the expertise of specialist advisers with the relevant language skills, if corroboration through these sources is required.

Any corroborating statements provided by users and held on file by the HEI will need to be provided to the REF team in English if requested through an audit. Where necessary the HEI will need to arrange for their translation.

Corroborating contacts should be given only for people who the REF team can communicate with in English.

Do all the outputs referenced in an impact case study need to be of at least two-star quality?
A case study should include references to up to six research outputs that represent the body of research or a research project that was carried out at the submitting institution. These should be key outputs that underpinned the impact, and that best demonstrate the quality of the body of work or project. The sub-panels will not expect each individual output to meet the quality threshold, but will wish to be satisfied that the listed work was predominantly of at least two-star quality.
Can the same impact case study be submitted by more than one submitting unit?
Where more than one submitting unit made a distinct and material research contribution to an impact, each of those submitting units may submit a case study of the impact. However, the case studies should not be identical, because each submitting unit will need to show that its research made a distinct and material contribution to the impact. This applies whether an HEI wishes to submit the same impact in different submissions, or different HEIs wish to submit the same impact.
Can an HEI submit an impact case study in a UOA, even if the individual who conducted the research is returned in a different UOA?
Yes, we recognise that individual researchers may undertake research across multiple disciplines over time and that UOA boundaries are not rigid. Provided the underpinning research is within the scope of the UOA in which it is submitted, a case study may be submitted in a different UOA from the individual.
Does the indicative maximum of 6 references to research in an impact case study refer to a combined total of research references and grant information details?
No. In addition to the maximum of 6 research references, grant information details may also be provided, where appropriate.
Can an impact that had taken place before the output(s) from the underpinning research were published be submitted in a case study?
Yes. It is recognised that research may have had impact prior to the publication of the output(s). The end of the publication period for the underpinning research (31 December 2013) extends beyond the end of the period for the impact (31 July 2013).
Can 'interim' impacts be submitted in case studies, and how will they be assessed?
Submitted impacts may be at any stage of development or maturity so long as some effect, change or benefit meeting the REF definition of impact (at Annex C of 'Assessment framework and guidance on submissions') took place during the assessment period (1 January 2008 to 31 July 2013). Regardless of the stage of maturity, case studies will be assessed in terms of the 'reach and significance' of the impacts that had occurred during this period.
Can an institution submit an impact underpinned by research carried out while the staff were working at the submitting institution, but the output was published after they had left the institution?
Yes. The case study should state what research was carried out at the submitting institution, by whom, and when. As with all information provided in submissions, such information should be capable of verification by the institution.
Can an institution submit an impact that is underpinned by research carried out by staff who were returned (or were eligible) as 'Category C' staff in a former RAE?
Yes, provided that they carried out the underpinning research while working in the submitting HEI.
Can an impact case study be submitted in a different REF UOA to the UOA that the underpinning research had been submitted in a former RAE?
Yes. Impacts must be submitted in an appropriate REF UOA, regardless of where the underpinning research may have been submitted to a former RAE. See paragraph 162 of 'Assessment framework and guidance on submissions'.
If a case study is graded as Unclassified, will the HEI be informed whether this was due to the reach and significance of the impact, or due to some other reason (such as ineligibility or insufficient quality of the underpinning research)?
No. The panels may include general comments on this issue in their overview reports, if applicable.
Can the institution only submit impacts underpinned by research in areas in which it still remains active?

A submitted impact must be underpinned by research that was carried out by staff while working in the submitting HEI. The HEI need not remain active in the area of research.

Note that in reaching their overall judgements about the impact element of submissions, sub-panels will consider the submitted unit's recent activity and strategy for enabling impact from its current research.

If the submitting HEI has merged with another HEI or has taken over another research unit, can it submit impacts from research that was undertaken by the other HEI or research unit before becoming part of the submitting HEI?

Where a submitting HEI is the result of a merger between former HEIs, the submitting HEI can submit impacts from the research undertaken by the former, now merged, HEIs.

Where a submitting HEI has taken over a research unit – whether from another HEI or from elsewhere – the submitting HEI can submit impacts from research that was undertaken by the absorbed unit before it became part of the submitting HEI, with prior agreement from the relevant UK funding body.

Prior agreement must be sought by providing details of the nature of the research unit and of when and how it became part of the submitting HEI, to, no later than 30 June 2013. The REF team will liaise with the relevant funding body and communicate the decision to the HEI.

In each case the funding bodies will take into consideration whether a distinct unit was absorbed by the submitting HEI in its entirety, and the extent to which there has been genuine structural change.

For clarity, these arrangements do not apply to impacts from research carried out by individuals before they joined the submitting HEI. See paragraph 160a of 'Assessment framework and guidance on submissions'.