The Research Excellence Framework A beginner’s guide
What is the REF? • Successor to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), held in 2008, 2001, … • Determines distribution of ‘QR’ funding to HE institutions (a lot of money!). • Each ‘unit of assessment’ (likely to be Philosophy/HPS/TRS combined) in each HEI makes a submission. • Assessment on the basis of outputs, research environment and impact (probably). • Outputs can be a major factor in hiring decisions. • Deadline between summer 2012 and summer 2014.
How are the results determined? • Each element (individual outputs; environment; impact) awarded a grade (U, 1*, 2*, 3*, 4*). • Funding determined by: • how many staff are submitted • what proportion at each grade. (In 2010-11, the funding ratio for 4*:3*:2* is 9:3:1.) • Institutions also want to maximise ‘grade point average’ (because of league tables). • Every permanent or temporary staff member in post on the census date will normally be expected to contribute outputs (though mostly not including postdocs).
Outputs • Up to 4 per person (depending on when you ‘entered the profession’). • You MUST submit your full quota ( ‘U’ – unclassified – grade for missing outputs). • Each submitted output is graded by the REF panel (U, 1*, 2*, 3*, 4*). • So you need to: • have the required number of published outputs; • make sure they’re at least 2*.
Environment Not a major consideration for panels hiring junior staff.Things like: • PhD completions • Research income • Editing journals • Activity in the dept (conferences etc.) • Major awards and invitations.
Impact Again, not a major consideration: currently unclear how it will be assessed or what kinds of thing will count. Might include things like: • Involvement with practitioners and policymakers (medics, lawyers, government agencies, etc.) • Popularising (public lectures, podcasts, etc.) Junior staff not really expected to contribute here, but if you can, do!
Strategies? Focus on outputs! • High-quality, meaty publications in high-quality journals. • Quality over quantity. You need to meet your quota, but beyond that, focus on writing better things rather than more things. • Think about timing. Unconditional acceptance at a journal will normally suffice, but some journals take a long time (over a year) to make a decision. • Be wary of PhD-based monographs. (May count double but less likely to score well. Also time-consuming so may prevent you meeting your quota.)