further & higher education

Effectively Preparing for REF 2021

further & higher education

08:45 - 16:00

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Central Manchester

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:
  • Helena Mills, Head of REF Policy, Research UK
  • Dr Sophie von Stumm, Member, Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP)
  • Professor Cecilia Wong, Member, REF Main Panel C & Professor of Spatial Planning, The University of Manchester
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’ rather than 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 was 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 quality related (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 Updates to the Research Excellence Framework 2021

  • Exploring the key changes to REF 2021 following the 2016 independent Stern Review, including enabling HEIs to identify which staff are significantly responsible for research 
  • Highlighting how the REF 2021 will encourage universities to meet the goal set out by government of investing 2.4% of the UK’s GDP into research and development 
  • Discussing the role that open access will play in REF 2021 and how universities need to introduce sufficient internal policies to ensure they meet the accessibility requirements
  • Outlining how REF 2021 will measure the impact of research both nationally and internationally by assessing specific examples that have been underpinned by research 

Helena Mills, Head of REF Policy, Research UK (CONFIRMED)


Special 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

Dr Sophie von Stumm, Member, Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP) (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Overhauling Submission Processes to Improve Research Outputs

  • Considering University of Manchester’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health’s plans and preparations for the REF 2021 submission process
  • Outlining the differences compared to the REF 2014 submission process and understanding how the team has maintained an overall continuous approach to REF 2014
  • Decoupling staff from outputs with the average number of outputs required per FTE rising to 2.5 with a minimum of one output and maximum of five outputs for individual staff members
  • Implementing a transitional approach to the non-portability of outputs where outputs may be submitted by both the employing institution and the originating institution when the output was demonstrably generated

Professor Colette Fagan, Vice President for Research, University of Manchester  (invited)


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

  • Sharing details around how research outputs were mobilised to change the way key research areas are conceptualised, measured, and reported in official surveys
  • Advising on how to integrate partnership working into the research process to enhance real-world impact
  • Highlighting the value of international collaboration for enhancing the scope, reach and impact of research outputs

Professor Paul Holmes, Associate Dean for Research and Knowledge Exchange, Manchester Metropolitan University (invited)


Case Study: Creating Impactful International Research to Tackle Global Challenges

  • Highlighting how the University of Leeds encourages international research collaborations to conduct impact-orientated research in areas such as climate change and global health 
  • Exploring the benefit of international research networks for ensuring that international research helps to deliver benefits for both society and the economy
  • Discussing how building strategic partnerships are vital to producing impactful research and how universities can encourage researchers to enter in to partnerships 

Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: International, University of Leeds (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: 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 the 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 (invited)


Special Keynote: Outlining the Vision for Assessing Research Excellence in REF 2021

  • Emphasising REF as a process of expert review, and sharing guidance around the assessment criteria to be employed by the four main panels and their sub-panels
  • Sharing feedback on the consultation on the panel criteria and working methods
  • Detailing the working methods and procedures of the panels, and how this will be implemented in practice across the 34 units of assessment
  • Outlining the roles and responsibilities of the panels, and the process of assessing research excellence across the three domains of outputs, impact and environment
  • Reporting updates on plans to survey institutions in 2019 regarding the volume and nature of work that they intend to submit to the REF

Professor Cecilia Wong, Member, REF Main Panel C & Professor of Spatial Planning, The University of Manchester (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Addressing Societal Challenges and Problems Through Interdisciplinary Research

  • Looking at how Sheffield have put in place a new code-of-practice, guidance on submissions and a clear focus on interdisciplinary research to create an effective research environment
  • Discussing the need to have clear metrics around what is and isn’t classed as interdisciplinary research and how it can be distinguished from established routes of cross-referral
  • Exploring the concept of interdisciplinary ‘champions’ and whether it is appropriate to promote collaborative work through individuals

Professor John Derrick, Acting Vice-President and Head of Faculty of Science and Chair, REF Steering Committee, University of Sheffield (invited)


Panel Session: Discussing How Universities Can Optimise Research Practices and Policies to Ensure Excellence in REF 2021

  • Examining what makes an exceptional institutional research strategy, and to what extent policies should be adapted according to REF requirements, metrics and assessment criteria 
  • Exploring the Open Access requirement, and how universities can ensure their REF submissions are fully compliant
  • Analysing the “research-active staff” component of REF 2021, and discussing if and how this will impact submissions and outputs, including the debate around staff portability 
  • Assessing the value of interdisciplinary research in the context of REF 2021; looking at ways to encourage greater cross-departmental research collaborations and outputs going forward 
  • Evaluating the role and importance of senior leadership in coordinating REF preparations in the run up to the assessment date

Professor Dinah Birch CBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact Main Panel D: Arts and humanities, University of Liverpool (invited)

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

Professor Paul Holmes, Associate Dean for Research and Knowledge Exchange, Manchester Metropolitan University (invited)

Professor John Derrick, Acting Vice-President and Head of Faculty of Science and Chair, REF Steering Committee, University of Sheffield (invited)


Chair's Summary and Close

*Programme subject to change

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