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Decisions on assessing research impact

March 2011

REF 01.2011

This document is for information.

Decisions on assessing research impact

This document sets out the UK higher education funding bodies' decisions on the broad framework for the assessment of impact in the Research Excellence Framework, and the weightings of the three elements: outputs, impact and environment.

To: Heads of publicly funded higher education institutions in the UK
Organisations with an interest in commissioning or using academic research including businesses, public sector bodies, charities and other third-sector organisations
Of interest to those responsible for: Research
Reference: REF 01.2011
Publication date: March 2011
Enquiries to: Anna Dickinson
tel 0117 931 7477

Executive summary (read online)

Executive summary


1.   This document sets out the UK higher education funding bodies’ decisions in relation to the following aspects of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF):

  • the broad framework for assessing the impact of research in the 2014 REF
  • the weighting of the three elements in the assessment (outputs, impact and environment).

Key points

2.   Following the conclusion of the impact pilot exercise, the four UK funding bodies have decided that:

  1. a. In the REF there will be an explicit element to assess the 'impact' arising from excellent research, alongside the 'outputs' and 'environment' elements.
  2. The assessment of impact will be based on expert review of case studies submitted by higher education institutions. Case studies may include any social, economic or cultural impact or benefit beyond academia that has taken place during the assessment period, and was underpinned by excellent research produced by the submitting institution within a given timeframe. Submissions will also include information about how the unit has supported and enabled impact during the assessment period.
  3. A weighting of 25 per cent for impact would give due recognition to the economic and social benefits of excellent research. However, given that the impact assessment in the 2014 REF will still be developmental, the weighting of impact in the first exercise will be reduced to 20 per cent, with the intention of increasing this in subsequent exercises.
  4. The assessment of research outputs will account for 65 per cent, and environment will account for 15 per cent, of the overall assessment outcomes in the 2014 REF. These weightings will apply to all units of assessment.

Action required

3.   This document is for information. No action is required by higher education institutions. Further detailed guidance to institutions on preparing their submissions for the REF will be published in July 2011.