further & higher education

4th Annual REF Forum

further & higher education

08:45 - 16:00

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Central London

Early Bird Discount Offer

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

The 4th Annual Research Excellence Framework (REF) Forum will explore the latest insights and best practice from across the sector as all universities seek to prepare for REF 2021. This interactive forum will assess how research leaders can ensure they meet the standards of the Guidance on Submissions and Panel Criteria and Working Methods. Attendees will also gain a vital opportunity to benchmark against peers on outputs, impact and environment in preparation for the November 2020 submission deadline.


This Forum is specifically designed for the Higher Education sector. Those in attendance will include:

  • Research Managers
  • Research Development Managers
  • Research Excellence Managers
  • Research Impact Officers
  • REF Managers
  • REF Coordinators
  • Directors of Research
  • Associate Directors of Research
  • Heads of Research
  • Associate Deans
  • Pro Vice-Chancellors (Research)
  • Professors
Learning Objectives:
  • Explore the final preparations required of all HEIs in delivering outstanding REF submissions
  • Benchmark against peers seeking to demonstrate high quality research outputs, impact and environments
  • Gain the latest updates from the REF 2021 team and assess the future of the REF assessment process
Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Dr Kim Hackett, REF Director, Research England
  • Professor Jane Millar OBE, Professor of Social Policy and former Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Bath and Chair REF Main Panel C: Social Sciences
  • Dr Netta Weinstein, Co-Author, The Real-Time REF Review
  • Peter Hedges, Head of University Research Office & Executive REF Manager, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Colette Fagan, Vice-President for Research, University of Manchester
  • Professor Christine Raines, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Essex
  • Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research & Knowledge Transfer), University of Birmingham
View the agenda and additional speakers


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair’s Welcome Address

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research & Knowledge Exchange, University of Nottingham (invited)


Opening Keynote: Exploring Guidance on Submissions for REF 2021

  • Examining the key components of the Guidance on Submissions and how universities can effectively prepare for the submission deadline of November 2020
  • Outlining the expectations for HEIs in declaring staff circumstances and conducting equality impact assessments in line with their REF 2021 submissions
  • Ensuring HEIs meet the data requirements and open access expectations of research produced within the assessment cycle
  • Assessing the delivery of the REF submission system and how institutions will be able to meet technical guidance when making their submissions

Dr Kim Hackett, REF Director, Research England (CONFIRMED)


Keynote: Meeting the Expectations and Criteria of REF Panels

  • Analysing the core requirements of the REF 2021 Panel Criteria and Working Methods
  • Examining how a process of expert review will develop an evidence-based quality profile of the submission on the criteria of outputs, impact and environment
  • Exploring how disciplinary differences and research cultures are reflected within the criteria developed by the Main Panels
  • Outlining the new systems that have been developed by the panels to ensure interdisciplinary outputs are effectively assessed across sub-panels

Professor Jane Millar OBE, Professor of Social Policy and former Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Bath and Chair, REF Main Panel C: Social Sciences (CONFIRMED)


Keynote: Ensuring the Effective Assessment of Interdisciplinary Research within REF 2021

  • Examining how REF 2021 will ensure the fair and equitable assessment of all forms of research, including interdisciplinary research
  • Evaluating the role of sub-panels within the assessment process in ensuring collaborative assessment and oversight of interdisciplinary research
  • Discussing how interdisciplinary research can be effectively defined, identified and recognised particularly in relation to outputs
  • Overcoming the challenges faced by interdisciplinary research in REF 2014 as recognised by the Stern review

Professor Dame Athene Donald Master of Churchill College Cambridge, University of Cambridge, Chair, Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP) (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Panel Discussion: The Countdown to Submission – The Final Preparations for REF 2021

  • Exploring the final operational preparations for research functions to meet the standards of the Guidance on Submissions and Panel Criteria and Working Methods
  • Coordinating a university-wide strategy to ensure high quality submissions across departments which demonstrate high quality impact, outputs and an outstanding research environment
  • Examining solutions in how HEIs can ensure data submissions are accurate, verifiable and meet the expectation of the REF Audit Guidance

Peter Hedges, Head of University Research Office & Executive REF Manager, University of Cambridge (CONFIRMED)

Ed Kirby, REF Manager, University of York (invited)

Rob Seavers, Head of Research Planning (REF Manager), University of Warwick (invited)


Perceptions and Attitudes to REF 2021: Exploring the Findings of The Real-Time REF Review

  • Analysing the key attitudes of academics and managers in responding to and implementing REF across their institution
  • Assessing the impact of the REF exercise on research cultures and institutional priorities
  • Exploring views on how REF can improve open access, impact and drive improvements in research practices

Dr Netta Weinstein, Co-Author, The Real-Time REF Review (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Case Study: Producing Outstanding Research Outputs – Translating Success to REF 2021

  • Harnessing the lessons learnt on research outputs from a faculty recognised as first nationally for research power in general engineering in REF 2014
  • Examining how the faculty has sought to translate and further enhance its output success into the new assessment cycle
  • Determining how to successfully demonstrate the scale and quality of research outputs in line with the expectations of REF 2021
  • Delivering a submission which evidences originality, significance and rigour as expected of the assessment criteria

Professor Robert Wood, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Southampton (invited)


Case Study: Delivering and Demonstrating High Quality Research Impact

  • Gaining insights from the Geography department recognised as first nationally for 4* research impact in the REF 2014 cycle and exploring how this success can be replicated
  • Examining how the department seeks to highlight the ‘reach and significance’ of research impact in its 2021 submission
  • Evaluating why the department was recognised as the best nationally for its impact case studies and sharing lessons on what makes a successful impact case study for REF
  • Adapting the development of impact case studies in line with the Guidance on Submissions

Professor David Ockwell, Head of Department of Geography, University of Sussex (invited)


Case Study: Supporting a Vibrant Research Environment within a Unit of Assessment

  • Delivering a REF 2014 submission with 100% of research units submitted being ranked as 4* for supporting the research environment and wider discipline
  • Exploring how the faculty demonstrates its capabilities in enhancing the ‘vitality and sustainability’ of the research base
  • Determining what a high-quality research environment looks like and the how faculties can seek to enable impact from research
  • Sharing insights in how the department will seek to emphasise the development of the research environment within its REF 2021 submission

Professor Anna Philpott, Head of Faculty of Biology, University of Cambridge (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Panel Discussion: The Future of REF – Looking Towards the Next Assessment Cycle

  • Exploring findings and experiences from the REF 2021 cycle and how institutions can learn the lessons in preparation for the next framework
  • Examining what an effective institutional research strategy looks like and how to embed that within REF preparations
  • Understanding what makes an effective research assessment process and how institutions can harness the process to support high quality research cultures and advance the quality of outputs

Professor Christine Raines, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Essex (CONFIRMED)

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

Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research & Knowledge Transfer), University of Birmingham (CONFIRMED)


Chair's Closing Address

*Programme subject to change

With the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 now informing the allocation of £2 billion of annual public funding for research, the forthcoming assessment period is vital for all higher education institutions to demonstrate the quality of their research. With all units of assessment being measured on their research outputs, impact and environment, ensuring a high-quality submission for the November 2020 deadline is critical.

The assessment exercise that will take the form of REF 2021 has been the subject of extensive engagement across the sector including an evaluation of the metrics used in research assessment, an independent review of REF by Lord Stern and widespread consultation on the guidelines for the process. The result has been the development of clear rules in the conduct of REF 2021 which take the form of the Guidance on Submissions and the Panel Criteria and Working Methods.

Now the guidelines are in place, universities will be turning their attention to submitting their evidence and demonstrating the quality and impact of their departments with a busy schedule ahead for research leaders. In early 2020 universities can expect the release of the new submission systems and technical guidance, the deadline for staff circumstance requests and the formal invitation for institutions to begin making their submissions.

As such, all universities are now facing an important phase as they seek to complete preparations, measure quality and finalise their submissions for the crucial deadline of 27 November 2020. The onus now falls on all research leaders to ensure their units of assessment meet the criteria expected of the REF panels, develop outstanding submissions and showcase world-class research outputs.

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