further & higher education

3rd Annual REF Forum

further & higher education

08:45 - 15:00

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Central London

Early Bird Discount Offer

10% off all advertised rates for a limited time only. Discount available to public / voluntary organisations only


This Forum will provide delegates with the opportunity to discuss the latest REF 2021 developments with experts and sector leaders from key government agencies. Attendees will learn about implications of the new REF panel criteria for research planning, management, delivery and funding. Moreover, best practise case studies focusing on research outputs, impact, and environment will be instructive for delegates interested in adapting and optimising institutional research practises in preparation for the REF submission deadline in November 2020.


This Forum is specifically designed for the Higher Education sector. Typical job titles include:

  • REF Directors
  • Chancellors
  • Pro-Vice Chancellors
  • Principals
  • Deans of Research
  • Directors of Research and Development
  • Directors of Knowledge Exchange
  • Heads of Faculty
  • Heads of Department
  • Directors of Research and Innovation
  • Heads of Research Partnerships
  • Research Impact Managers
  • Senior Research Managers
  • Research Support Officers
  • Senior Professors

This Forum is also open to the Private and Voluntary Sectors, as well as Central Government, in order to encourage debate and networking.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Dan Hodges, Head of Economics, Analysis, and Market Insight, Innovate UK
  • Professor Veronica Strang, Member, Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP)
  • Professor Max Lu, Vice-Chancellor, University of Surrey, and Chair, UK Forum for Responsible Research Metrics
View the agenda and additional speakers


76% of research at UK higher education institutions was considered as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for its overall quality in 2014, according to results from the most recent Research Excellent Framework assessment, with universities adding a gross value of £28.9 billion to the economy as a result of research efforts.

However, in the wake of REF 2014, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commissioned Lord Stern to conduct a review into the assessment’s perceived deficiencies, such as being too costly, incurring an excessive administrative burden, and discrediting research excellence by placing too much focus on ‘getting published’ as opposed to letting researchers follow their own personal judgements.

The results of this report were published in 2016, including a series of recommendations for change, many of which have been implemented in REF 2021. These include a broadening and deepening of how “impact” is assessed, restricted scope for strategic “game playing”, provisions to encourage the submission of interdisciplinary research, and requirements for all “research active” staff to submit outputs. REF 2021 has also adopted an Open Access policy, which states that to be eligible for submission, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts must be discoverable, and free to read and download for anyone with an internet connection.

Summer 2018 saw the release of the draft panel criteria, working methods and submission guidance for REF 2021, which are timetabled to be finalised and formally published in early 2019, ahead of the formal submission deadline on the 27th November 2020. The results of the REF assessment will be used to inform how £1.6 billion in QR block funding is distributed to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) by Research England, as well as being used to inform universities’ positions in national league tables.

In order to access public research funding and maintain or enhance their academic reputations, it is imperative that HEIs understand how REF 2021 will assess impact, outputs and environment, and how these assessments will be used to distribute selective QR block funding across the HE sector.


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Professor George Marston, Pro-Vice Chancellor – Research & Innovation, Northumbria University (invited)


Morning Keynote: Exploring the Role of Interdisciplinarity in REF 2021

  • Acting upon recommendations in the Stern Review 2016 to place greater emphasis on encouraging interdisciplinary research submissions
  • Highlighting the value of interdisciplinary research in terms of engendering a more creative research process and delivering high impact outcomes
  • Supporting the fair and equitable assessment of interdisciplinary research through the introduction of Interdisciplinary Research advisers on each sub-panel, and a specific IDR section for the research environment assessment
  • Outlining the structures, processes and approaches involved in assessing interdisciplinary research, including how interdisciplinarity will be defined

Professor Veronica Strang, Member, Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP) (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Delivering an Outstanding, REF-Optimised Research Strategy

  • Identifying and supporting dynamic and imaginative leadership to galvanise disparate groups across departmental boundaries; providing long-term commitment to the interdisciplinary project
  • Providing an outstanding research environment by ensuring that comprehensive and sustainable funding streams are in place, and providing researchers with cutting-edge infrastructure, facilities and equipment
  • Ensuring that the UCL research community recognises the importance of engagement with the public; supporting participatory research, co-production and citizen science
  • Maximising research impact for the public benefit by providing policy advice, informing professional practice, and improving health and wellbeing

UCL was rated the top university in the UK for research strength in REF2014

Professor David Price, Vice Provost – Research, University College London (UCL) (invited)


Sponsored Session


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Developing Responsible and Standardised Qualitative and Quantitative Indicators for REF 2021

  • Advising REF 2021 panels and HE funding bodies on the development of metrics for effectively and responsibly measuring research environment and research impact
  • Embedding robustness, humility, transparency, diversity and reflexivity into qualitative indicators for REF, as suggested by the Metric Tide report in 2015
  • Allowing submitting institutions to select the most appropriate indicators for their particular context to support claims of excellence regarding research environment
  • Developing and evaluating quantitative measures of research impact to ensure consistency and comparability across a varied range of impacts and disciplines

Professor Max Lu, Vice-Chancellor, University of Surrey, and Chair, UK Forum for Responsible Research Metrics (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Encouraging High-Quality Public Engagement as a Route to Impact in REF 2021

  • Highlighting how “impact” in REF 2021 extends beyond socio-economic ramifications to include a wider variety of impact outcomes
  • Showcasing how public engagement produces impact in the context of research focusing on collecting and analysing large data sets through Citizen Science to help conserve the declining number of penguins
  • Designing and utilising the Zooniverse platform to engage the public, resulting in the processing of 5.3 million images and using this data to inform bodies such as the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
  • Continuously seeking to engage new audiences with the research and encouraging more volunteers through generation of media interest, such as appearing on BBC news
  • Detailing the benefits to the public of engaging them in research, with nearly a million people having participated in the project and subsequently increased their understanding about penguin ecology and conservation

Dr Tom Hart and his team won a Project Award for Collaboration & Communications with the Public in Oxford University’s 2017 Public Engagement with Research Awards

Dr Tom Hart, Department of Zoology, and Professor Chris Lintott, Department of Physics, University of Oxford (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Maximising Impact through Innovative Research

  • Sharing the latest developments around the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and articulating the eligibility criteria for applications
  • Outlining the role of universities in collaborating with industry to receive Innovate UK funding, such as round two of the Biomedical Catalyst competition which made £10 million available for research projects to solve healthcare challenges in a clinical setting
  • Explaining the rationale behind selecting particular subject specialisms for funding competitions
  • Detailing Innovate UK’s January 2018 Evaluation Framework, designed to accurately measure the economic impact of funded projects; outlining how the framework overcomes previous methodological challenges

Dan Hodges, Head of Economics, Analysis, and Market Insight, Innovate UK (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Designing Research Projects for Maximum Impact on Government Policy

  • Acknowledging that REF 2021 adopts a broadened definition of impact, including how research outputs have affected change in national government policy
  • Detailing how research projects conducted by Professor Eileen Munro, and subsequent policy recommendations, have been used as a touchstone for the future of childcare services
  • Highlighting how Munro’s research findings have helped to promote a new emphasis on reforming management structures and culture to drive improvement in child social care
  • Outlining the research design process, and explaining how the post-research findings were channelled through various mediums to influence government policymaking

Professor Eileen Munro CBE, Professor of Social Policy, Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics (invited)


Case Study: Delivering Exceptional Impact in a STEM Research Project

  • Conducting innovative and award-winning research into decontamination techniques following chemical attacks to significantly enhance the effectiveness of first responders
  • Demonstrating real world-impact on policy by helping the US Department of Health and Human Services to develop new guidance on decontamination following a chemical attack
  • Receiving praise from NHS leaders and UK Home Office officials for the project’s impact and potential to improve emergency responses to chemical attacks
  • Outlining the process of creating a bespoke research facility of 16 full-time research staff, and how a multi-disciplinary approach contributed to exceptional research impact and quality
  • Sharing lessons learnt over the course of planning, designing, conducting and evaluating the research project, including guidance for other HEIs on how to replicate success

Winner of the Times Higher Education Award 2018 for “Research Project of the Year: STEM”

Professor Rob Chilcott, Head of Toxicology, University of Hertfordshire (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*Programme subject to change

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