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For enquiries about REF at Solent contact ref@solent.ac.uk.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a peer review assessment of the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). The review takes place every five to seven years. It is undertaken by the Government body, Research England and is used to:

  • Provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment.
  • Provide the benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks.
  • Inform the selective allocation of funding for research.

The last REF was REF 2014. All the submissions and results for REF 2014 remain available to view. The next REF exercise will be REF 2021 - the timetable can be found here

Solent University draft Code of Practice

As part of the preparations for the REF, all UK universities will submit a Code of Practice (CoP) to the REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP) for approval. The CoP outlines the process for selection of staff and research outputs. It applies to academic staff on Research only and Teaching and Research contracts. 

The Code of Practice is informed by the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions.

Following a period of consultation (21 February - 29 March 2019), the University submitted the revised Solent University draft Code of practice to EDAP. Once approved by EDAP, the final version will be published in December 2019.

View the draft Code of Practice

If you have questions about the Code of Practice, you can contact ref@solent.ac.uk or the School research leads.

Solent research leads

  • Jennifer Anyan - School of Art, Design and Fashion
  • Simon Fox - School of Business, Law and Communications
  • Laurie Wright - Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering
  • Darren Kerr - School of Media Arts and Technology
  • Brian Wink - School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences

Appeals process and individual circumstances


Appeals process

Included on page 13 of the CoP are details of the appeals process. Full details will be available on this page once the Code of Practice is approved.

Please use the appeals form to submit an appeal to ref@solent.ac.uk - please address all appeals to the REF Appeals Panel

Download the REF 2021 appeals form

Declaration of individual circumstances

A voluntary process for staff to request a review of individual circumstances in order to reduce the number of research outputs required is also included i the CoP, please refer to page 18.

Please feel free to use the form below to request a reduction in outputs due to individual circumstances,. Please send this to ref@solent.ac.uk, marked confidential if necessary, by 30 January 2020.

Download the REF 2021 declaration of individual circumstances form

REF management structure

The Vice-Chancellor has appointed a REF Steering Group with strategic oversight of the process, and a REF Working Group which engages with the operational aspects of the REF on which all Schools are represented by research leads. Members of the REF Working Group act as unit of assessment coordinators. The Vice-Chancellor will sign-off the final submission to REF.

How the REF works

The REF assesses research excellence through a process of expert review. The reviews are undertaken by panels of experts appointed to a Unit of Assessment (UoA). There are 34 UoAs, which are split between four main panels (A-D). 

Each expert panel will review all of the outputs, impact and environment information for the HEI in that UoA and will produce a quality profile. The overall quality profile of the HEI will reflect all of these UoA level assessments.

The results are published at sub-panel (UoA) and main panel (A-D) level. The UoA profiles are reported as a percentage of the total submitted research activity deemed to have met each of the defined levels of quality. The overall profile comprises an aggregate of the weighted profiles produced for research outputs, research impact and research environment. 

In a change to REF 2014 the weighting of the three different elements of the assessment exercise will be:

  • Outputs (60%)
  • Impact (25%)
  • Environment (15%)

Overall quality star rating profile

Level Definition 
4*  Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
 3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour, but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
2*  Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
1*  Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 
 Unclassified (u/c) Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of the assessment 

Only 3* and 4* results contribute to the allocation of quality-related QR funding.

How the REF works at Solent

In order to prepare for submission to REF 2021, Solent University has implemented a REF governance structure constituting a steering group comprised from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor; Director of Research, Innovation and Enterprise; and other senior representatives from the University's Schools and services whose role is to maintain and oversee REF 2021 preparations and provide recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor.

Also actively working towards Solent's REF 2021 submission is the REF working group comprised of UoA co-ordinators formed from the School strategic research leads appointed by the steering group whose role is to liaise and communicate with academic staff within each School and assist with the creation and dissemination of the code of practice, staff selection, equality impact assessment, research output selection and impact case study development. The REF steering group and REF working group will make recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor based on the pool of REF eligible staff identified by the Research England approved Solent code of practice on the potential units of assessment that the University may make a submission to.

The outcome of this process will seek to maintain and enhance Solent's academic reputation and a reasonable probability of a subsequent funded return.

Throughout the course of preparations for REF 2021, as submission data is assembled and assessed, the following potential UoAs may be subject to change. UoAs 21 and 24 fall into the REF 2021 main panel C category. UoA 34 is within main panel D - citation information is not applicable to this UoA.

  • 21 - Sociology (UoA coordinator: Laurie Wright, Senior Lecturer, Science and Engineering)
  • 24 - Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism (UoA coordinator: Brian Wink, Head of Psychology)
  • 34 - Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management (UoA coordinator: Darren Kerr, Head of Film and Digital Arts)

For enquiries about REF at Solent, contact ref@solent.ac.uk

Timetable for REF 2021 and key Solent dates

REF 2021 key dates timetable Ref 2021 at Solent timetable  
1 January 2000 -
31 December 2020 
Underpinning research for impact (minimum 2*)  1 January 2000 -
31 December 2020 
Underpinning research for impact (minimum 2*) 
1 August 2013 -
31 July 2020 
Assessment period for impact  1 August 2013 -
31 July 2020
Assessment period for impact 
1 August 2013 -
31 July 2020 
Assessment period for environment data  1 August 2013 -
31 July 2020 
Assessment period for environment data 
1 January 2014 -
31 December 2020 
Assessment period for outputs  1 January 2014 -
31 December 2020 
Assessment period for outputs 
January 2019  Publication of final guidance on UoA panel criteria, submission and code of practice  January 2019  Publication of final guidance on UoA panel criteria, submissions and code of practice 
    February - March 2019  Consultation on code of practice 
    April 2019  Conclusion of consultation on code of practice 
    May 2019  Submission of draft code of practice 
7 June 2019  Submission of HEI codes of practice to REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel  (EDAP) 7 June 2019  Deadline for submission of codes of practice to REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP)
December 2019 Publication of HEI codes of practice approved by REF EDAP December 2019 Publication of HEI codes of practice approved by REF EDAP
31 July 2020 Staff census date 31 July 2020 Staff census date
November 2020 Closing date for submissions November 2020 Closing date for submissions
2021 Assessment year 2021 Assessment year
December 2021 Publication of outcomes December 2021 Publication of outcomes
Spring 2022 Publication of submissions and reports Spring 2022 Publication of submissions and reports

Staff selection

Working with the REF 2021 main panels, Research England will provide further guidance on identifying staff with significant responsibility for research. This will be published in the final guidance on submissions and panel criteria in early 2019. This guidance will not prescribe a fixed set of criteria that all staff would be required to meet, but will set out a 'menu' of what Research England would consider may be appropriate indicators of 'significant responsibility' for research. 

Recognising that there are staff who have more significant responsibility for other activities, Research England will implement an approach whereby institutions, working with their staff and with guidelines, identify who is in scope for submission among staff meeting core eligibility criteria. Research England has defined the core eligibility criteria as:

Category A eligible: 

  • Academic staff with a contract of employment of no less than 0.2 FTE.
  • Employed by the submitting institution on the census date (31 July 2020).
  • Whose primary employment function is to undertake either 'research only' (independent researchers only) or 'teaching and research'.
  • Have a substantive connection to the submitting institution.
  • For staff on 'research only' contracts, the eligible pool should only include those who are independent researchers, not research assistants.

Category A submitted: 

  • Describes the staff from the 'Category A eligible' pool who have been identified as having 'significant responsibility for research' on the census date.

Where the 'Category A eligible' staff definition accurately identifies all staff in the submitting unit with a significant responsibility for research, the unit should submit 100% of staff. Where it does not accurately identify all staff in the submitting unit who have significant responsibility for research, institutions will need to implement processes to determine this and document this in a code of practice, approved by Research England with advice from the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP).

  • Staff who have left the HEI by 31 July 2020 will not be eligible to be returned in the UoA, except where outputs were 'demonstrably generated' at the submitting HEI.
  • QR funding is allocated on the basis of the 'assessed quality' of the submissions (research outputs, impact and environment) and the submitted volume (FTE) of submitted academic staff who were in post on the census date and were eligible for submission based on the HEIs' Code of Practice.
  • Each HEI will decide which staff to submit in order to maximise both the quality (which includes the assessment of their research outputs) and the resultant funding (linked to submitted staff volume). The peer review panels do not assess the quality of individual staff. 

The Code of Practice is drawn up at each HEI in accordance with guidance issued by Research England. The Code of Practice will set out the criteria for eligibility of staff for submission to the REF (staff volume) and the selection process for outputs. Each HEI's Code of Practice will be approved by Research England before implementation, to ensure decisions are justifiable and non-discriminatory.

The Solent code of practice and REF eligible staff

Solent will identify REF eligible staff through a Code of Practice which will be subject to review by Solent staff at the draft stage and to approval by the REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel (EDAP).

The Code of Practice outlines which academic staff will be eligible for submission to the REF 2021. The draft Code is open for consultation 21 February 2019 to 29 March 2019. The Code of Practice takes into consideration equality impact assessments at each stage; outlines the process for identifying staff with significant responsibility for research, determining research independence; and on the selection of research outputs based on the REF Guidance on Submissions

The consultation closes on 29 March 2019. Staff feedback on the consultation will be considered in preparation for the final draft submission of the Code of Practice to EDAP on 7 June 2019. Approved codes of practice will be published on the REF 2021 website in December 2019. Only academic staff meeting the criteria outlined within the Solent Code of Practice will be submitted.

Download the draft Solent Code of Practice

For enquiries about REF at Solent, contact ref@solent.ac.uk.

Research outputs

Open access:The  REF Open Access policy requires outputs within the scope of the policy (journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN number) to be deposited in an open access repository as soon after the point of acceptance for publication as possible, and no later than three months after this date from 1 April 2018. Due to concerns around the uptake following the introduction of the deposit on acceptance criteria, the rules surrounding deposit within three months of acceptance were initially relaxed as follows:

  • Outputs accepted for publication between 1 April 2016 until 31 March 2018 must be deposited as soon after the point of acceptance for publication as possible, and no later than three months after the date of publication.
  • Outputs accepted for publication between 1 April 2018 and 31 December 2020 must be deposited as soon after the point of acceptance as possible, and no later than three months after the acceptance date

For further information about Open Access at Solent, please find some information here, or contact your Solent information librarian. Solent has recently appointed a dedicated research librarian who will be able to support all academics with any queries relating to open access from early February 2019.

Peer review of research outputs will contribute to 60% of the HEIs' overall REF outcome. 

For a research output to be eligible for submission to the REF it should be considered against criteria such as: 

  • it is a product of research: a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared; 
  • it was first made publicly available during the REF publication period (1 January 2014 - 31 December 2020); 
  • it is authored/co-authored by a member of staff at the HEI on the submission census date; 
  • it is a journal article, published conference contribution, book, book chapter, physical artefact, exhibition, performance, digital artefact, web content. 

In all UoAs, individual staff may submit between one and five outputs, however, the overall submission must be an average of 2.5 outputs per FTE.

For example, where UoA submitted staff = 20, UoA submitted outputs = 50, and:

  • A minimum of one output will be required for each eligible staff member employed on the census date 
  • A maximum of five outputs may be attributed to individual staff members (including those who have left) 
  • Data on the distribution of outputs across staff in the UoA, including staff who have left, will be provided to the sub-panels for consideration in relation to the assessment of the environment 

Output portability:  A transitional approach is being adopted whereby outputs may be submitted by both the institution employing the staff member of the census date and the originating institution where the staff member was previously employed when the output was demonstrably generated. 'Demonstrably generated' will be determined by the date when the output was first made publicly available. This applies to the whole REF 2021 period.

Research outputs at Solent

The Solent REF 2021 submission will be extracted from the Pure research information management system, which can be accessed through the Portal. Academics are urged to add all their research outputs to Pure and maintain their academic profiles. If any assistance is required to add content to Pure, this video on SOL contains some useful information. New user guides will be added to Pure soon, or please contact the RIE office at pure@solent.ac.uk for assistance. Academics are encouraged to register for an ORCID for inclusion on their Pure profile.

A research librarian has been appointed to facilitate and improve upon the way outputs are recorded within Pure, in preparation for Pure to become public facing which will meet the open access criteria for REF in the first half of 2019. Further information will be released in due course. Please continue to deposit research outputs in the Solent Electronic Archive (SEA) until notified otherwise.

During 2019, Solent will employ a number of external consultants to review eligible research outputs recorded by academics on Pure, to assess open access and peer-review requirements have been met, and advise on quality and UoA alignment to ensure all research output content selected by Solent and submitted to REF 2021 is of sufficient calibre and meets the exacting REF criteria in each potential UoA.

View the research output assessment criteria

Research impact

Peer review, including review by research end-users, will contribute 25% to the HEIs' overall REF outcome. 

For the purposes of REF 2021, impact is defined as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia. Impact includes, but is not limited to, an effect on, change or benefit to:

  • the activity, attitude, awareness, behaviour, capacity, opportunity, performance, policy, practice, process or understanding
  • of an audience, beneficiary, community, constituency, organisation or individuals
  • in any geographic location whether locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.

Impact includes the reduction or prevention of harm, risk, cost or other negative effects. 

For a UoA to be eligible for submission to REF, it must have a minimum of two impact case studies. For every 15 staff added to the first 15 staff submitted in a UoA, a further impact case study must be submitted. 

For a research impact case study to be eligible for submission to the REF it should be meet the following criteria: 

  • the underpinning research was produced in the submitting unit between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2020; 
  • the impact took place between 1 August 2013 and 31 July 2020; 
  • the underpinning research is assessed as at least 2* in the excellence framework; 
  • the impact case study demonstrates 'reach and significance' supported by evidence. 

View the impact case study assessment criteria

Impact case studies at Solent

Solent requires a minimum of two impact case studies for each UoA it intends to make submissions to. The Research, Innovation and Enterprise office is currently seeking impact case studies to build in preparation for REF 2028, as well as for submission to REF 2021.

Academics whose research, completed at Solent, has resulted in changes and benefits to society at large are urged to complete an impact case study template. The template should contain the following details:

  • a summary of the impact,
  • a description of the underpinning research including key research insights,
  • references to where and when the research was first made publically available,
  • details of the impact including how the underpinning research made a distinct and material contribution to the impact, and
  • the nature and extent of the impact, and documented evidence of this.

Once completed the template should be sent to ref@solent.ac.uk

Solent has employed an external REF impact consultant to assess and advise on impact case study templates and assist academics to build robust impact case studies in preparation for REF 2021, but also for longer-term development towards REF 2028. Once an impact case study template has been received, it will be passed on to the consultant for review and initial feedback. If the impact of the research outlined on the template sufficiently appears to meet the REF 2021 criteria, a consultation meeting will be arranged. Academics are subsequently encouraged to submit action plans, to show how they intend to gather evidence to demonstrate the significance and reach of the impact of their research prior to the end of the impact assessment period in July 2020, and to outline what type of support they may require from Research, Innovation and Enterprise to do so. 

Download the impact case studies template

Research environment

Peer review of the research environment will contribute 15 per cent to the HEIs' overall REF outcome. 

For research environment to be eligible for submission to the REF it should be considered against criteria such as: 

  • Research degrees awarded - number of doctoral degrees awarded in each academic year of the assessment period to students supervised within the submitting unit (taken from HESA data).
  • Research income - total external research income (grants and contracts) in each academic year of the assessment period in the submitting unit of assessment (taken from the Financial Statistics Return (FSR) returned to HESA). 
  • Research income-in-kind - estimated value of Research Council facility time allocated through peer review and used by staff in submitting units (data provided by Research England). 

A template will be issued and will include mandatory fields to be completed including the following: 

  • research strategy 
  • people 
    • staffing strategy and staff development 
    • research students 
  • income, infrastructure and facilities 
  • collaboration and contribution to the discipline 
  • impact.

View the research environment assessment criteria

Assessment

The REF assesses research excellence through a process of expert review, informed by metrics where appropriate. HEIs submit evidence of their research outputs, research impact and research environment to UoAs, which are discipline-based expert panels who conduct the review.

The role of metrics in research assessment

Research England conducted an independent review to ascertain the extent to which metrics could be used in the assessment and management of research. This was reported in The Metric Tide report which concluded that metrics are not yet robust enough to replace peer review. The consultation proposes that metrics are used to inform peer review in some UoAs (similar to REF 2014). The Forum for Responsible Metrics, established in 2016, produced advice in 2017 for Research England (and the other HE funding bodies) on the use of quantitative indicators in the assessment of outputs in REF 2021 (with further discussion planned later for assessment of impact and environments). 

The Forum defines responsible metrics as using the following principles: 

  • Robustness - basing metrics on the best possible data in terms of accuracy and scope. 
  • Humility - recognising that quantitative evaluation should support, but not supplant, qualitative, expert assessment.
  • Transparency - that those being evaluated can test and verify the results.
  • Diversity - accounting for variation by research field, and using a range of indicators to reflect and support a plurality of research and researcher career paths across the system.
  • Reflexivity - recognising and anticipating the systemic and potential effects of indicators, and updating them in response.

Use of citation information 

Previously the following UoAs used citation information as an indicator in addition to expert peer review: 

Main panel A - All 

Main panel B - UoAs 7, 8, 9 and 11 

Main panel C - UoA 16 

Main panel D - None

Research output assessment criteria and definitions

Level Definition 
4*  Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
3*  Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour, but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
2*  Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
1*  Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
Unclassified (u/c)  Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment. 

Impact case study assessment criteria and definitions

 LevelDefinition 
4*  Outstanding in terms of reach and significance. 
3*  Very considerable in terms of reach and significance. 
2*  Considerable in terms of reach and significance. 
1*  Recognised in terms of reach and significance 
Unclassified (u/c)  Little or no reach and significance; or not eligible; or not underpinned by excellent research produced by the submitting unit. 

Research environment assessment criteria and definitions

Level Definition 
4*  Conducive to producing research of world-leading quality in terms of its vitality and sustainability. 
3*  Conducive to producing research of internationally excellent quality in terms of its vitality and sustainability 
2*  Conducive to producing research of internationally recognised quality in terms of its vitality and sustainability. 
1*  Conducive to producing research of nationally recognised quality in terms of its vitality and sustainability. 
Unclassified (u/c)  An environment that is not conducive to producing research of nationally recognised quality. 

Further information

What is submitted in a UoA?

Five sections are submitted:

  • Staff data
  • Research outputs
  • Impact case studies
  • Environment data
  • Environment narrative

Where can I find information about the previous REF?

Information can be found on the REF2014 website.

Which UoA(s) will the University submit to?

Solent is currently hoping to submit to three UoAs:

  • 21 - Sociology
  • 24 - Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism
  • 34 - Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

Who are the Solent UoA coordinators?

  • 21 - Sociology (UoA Co-ordinator: Laurie Wright - Senior Lecturer, Science and Engineering)
  • 24 – Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism (UoA Co-ordinator: Brian Wink - Head of Psychology)
  • 34 – Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management. (UoA Co-ordinator: Darren Kerr - Head of Film and Digital Arts)

Solent UoA descriptors

REF2021: Unit of assessment descriptors and boundaries 

UoA 21: Sociology

113. Descriptor: Sociology is a social science with a diversity of areas and approaches to the study of social life and society. It includes empirical, critical and theoretical study of social structures, power, cultures and everyday practices, including styles and material standards of living, opinions, values and institutions. It includes analysis of and attention to social inequalities, divisions, justice and solidarities at the micro, meso and macro levels. It covers all areas of social theory, historical and comparative studies, and social research methodology, philosophy of social science, and research on pedagogy in sociology. Sociology embraces a wide range of methodologies including quantitative, qualitative and visual; and of all forms of data. The sub-panel also expects to consider sociological research in such interdisciplinary fields as criminology and socio-legal studies, media and cultural studies, social policy, gender and women’s studies, demography, socio-linguistics, social psychology, psychosocial studies, social studies of science and technology, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex studies.

114. The sub-panel expects submissions in this UOA from all fields of sociological enquiry including, but not restricted to, research on cultures, economies and polities; class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, and age, and their intersections; religion, education, health and medicine, family, media, welfare institutions, and work and employment; environment, technology and the digital; and climate change; the body, interpersonal and inter-group relations, violence; urban and rural issues; language and social interaction; political sociology, public policy and social movements; political economy, globalisation, development, migration and diaspora; comparative studies of societies of all kinds, including work on transnational structures and agencies, Europe world systems.

115. As in previous research assessment exercises, work in interdisciplinary women’s and gender studies may be submitted in this UOA, or may be cross-referred by other sub-panels to Sub-panel 21 (Sociology). 

116. Work submitted in this UOA may overlap significantly with the remit of UOA 20 (Social Work and Social Policy). It is anticipated that the use of calibration, joint assessors and cross-referral of parts of submissions may be required in order to ensure an appropriate assessment, in accordance with the arrangements in Part 5, paragraphs 399 to 404 (of the REF 2021 Panel Criteria and Working Methods). 

117. For the avoidance of doubt, it is recognised that much criminological research may fall within the boundaries of Sub-panels 18 (Law), 20 (Social Work and Social Policy) and 21 (Sociology). All three sub-panels welcome such work, which will be assessed in accordance with the arrangements noted above, making use of calibration, joint assessors and cross-referral as deemed appropriate by the sub-panels. 

118. Boundaries: Sub-panel 21 (Sociology) acknowledge that the UOA does not specify boundaries as per many other sub-panels. This is balanced through the descriptor outlining processes for managing submissions, to a greater detail than other sub-panels. The sub-panel consider issues of boundaries to have been addressed.

UOA 24: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism  

128. Descriptor: Research in the UOA stems from the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities. The sub-panel expects to receive submissions from a wide range of disciplines and subject areas that contribute to research in sport and exercise sciences, leisure and tourism. This could include (in alphabetical order): adapted physical activity, anthropology, behaviour change, biochemistry, biomechanics, business management and marketing, coaching, culture and media studies, development studies, economics, education and pedagogy, engineering and technology, festivals and events, geography, history, hospitality, law, medicine, molecular biology, motor learning and control, nutrition, outdoor and adventure education, philosophy, physical education, physical activity and health/public health, physiology, policy studies, politics, psychology, sociology, sports injury and rehabilitation and, strength and conditioning. Research in sport and exercise sciences, leisure and tourism is therefore derived from diverse disciplines and subject areas, and can also be multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary.  

129. Boundaries: The sub-panel expects submissions in this UOA of research of all types, and it expects to consider research informed by a variety of research epistemologies, methodologies and methods. The sub-panel will consider research defined as empirical, theoretical, strategic, applied, or policy-focused as having equal standing. 

UOA 34: Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

164. The sub-panel recognises the rich diversity of research in communication, cultural and media studies, library and information management, and welcomes all outputs arising from this research, in whatever genre or medium, that can be demonstrated to meet the definition of research for the REF (as outlined in ‘Guidance on submissions’, Annex C). In setting out its remit, the sub-panel recognises that the UOA descriptor covers two broad fields of research which are often distinct both organisationally and academically, and welcomes submissions that reflect this. It also recognises that the activities covered by its remit, even within its two broad fields of coverage, are often rooted in quite distinct research traditions or infrastructures. It will assess research on its merits, with no penalty for research which is plainly within a distinct tradition within the sub-panel’s remit. It will nonetheless welcome research which seeks to engage with questions and concerns, such as the ‘information society’, heritage (both cultural and museum aspects), networks or convergence, which may transcend field boundaries.  

165. The UOA includes research that addresses or deploys theory, history, institutional, policy, textual, critical and/or empirical analysis, or practice within communication, culture, media, journalism, film, television and screen studies. Within UK higher education much, but not all, of this work is likely to emanate from units or departments in communication studies, cultural studies, media studies, journalism, or film and screen/television studies. This work will include research on online and screen-based media (such as film, television, games and other digital forms), print media, computer-mediated communication, digital infrastructure and platform studies focused on data and society, diverse information and communication technologies, cultural policy, the creative industries and popular culture, which will be variably titled and organised. The sub-panel will assess research as defined above which addresses (but is not confined to): policy for regulation of culture and the media and communication industries; the organisation, institutions, political economy and practice of cultural production; media and cultural texts, forms and practices; media and cultural audiences, consumption and reception; the role of changing technology, including emergent digital technologies, in media production, content manipulation, distribution, access and participation. It is recognised that this will include work which explores questions of power, identity and difference in relation to media, communication and cultural studies which may sit at the intersections of (among others) gender and sexuality studies, race and postcolonial studies, and disability studies.  

166. The UOA also includes research concerned with the management of information and knowledge in all formats, namely librarianship and information science, archives and records management, and information systems. This concerns research on the generation, organisation, dissemination and publication, exploitation, protection, and evaluation of information and knowledge, and the impacts of such activities. It may include, for example, research that focuses on digital humanities; digital participation; information behaviour and use; information ethics; information literacy; information media; information policy; information retrieval; information security; information seeking; the information society; knowledge management systems; preservation and conservation; systems thinking; systems development; and the cultural, economic, ethical, historical, philosophical, and societal aspects of the disciplines and their associated professions. 

 167. The sub-panel recognises the overlapping boundaries in the sub-panel descriptors, and that aspects of research are naturally interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary or span the boundaries between individual UOAs. The sub-panel welcomes the submission of research that may equally be submitted to other sub-panels. Where judged necessary by the panels, expertise will be augmented by additional assessors, or work will be cross-referred to relevant panels, according to the process detailed in Part 5, paragraphs 387 to 392.

If Solent is not intending to submit to my subject area/UoA, can my research outputs still be entered?

Provided an academic meets the Solent code of practice definitions of eligibility for submission to REF 2021, their output may be submitted. But where the content of the research output spans disciplines, or does not fall naturally into a UoA the University is submitting to, a number of options are available:

  1. The output can be flagged if it is interdisciplinary to another UoA for assessment by a more appropriate panel.
  2. In cases where an academic's work presents as an outlier from their area of the University, it may be entered for cross-referral to another UoA for assessment by an appropriate panel.
  3. Where the volume of outputs from an area of the University relating to a UoA is small (eg, represents the work of five FTE or less), the REF may grant the University dispensation not to submit to very small UoAs.

Do journal impact factor ratings equate to REF quality star ratings?

No. Publishing an article in a well-regarded journal is not a guarantee that the research output being published will meet the definitions and quality criteria for REF 2021. Further details about journal impact factor ratings can be found here

What type of research output can be submitted to the REF 2021?

An underpinning principle of the REF is that all forms of research output will be assessed on a fair and equal basis. Sub-panels will not regard any particular form of output as of greater or lesser quality than another per se.

All research outputs must meet the definition of research for the REF. For the purposes of the REF, research is defined as ‘a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared’.

All submissions should provide sufficient information to allow a sub-panel to understand the research process, the research insights, and the time and manner of dissemination. Often this will be evident within the materials submitted, requiring no further information. However, where this is not evident within the submission, this may be supplemented by an up to 300-word statement or supporting evidence.

The table below sets out categories of output types under which outputs will be submitted in REF 2021, the collection formats for the different output types, and a broad definition of each category. This includes examples, which are provided for guidance only and do not represent a definitive list.

Category Upload to submission system Physical output (deposit to REF warehouse) Definition 
(Parts of) Books    
A - Authored book  PDF  Actual book 

An authored book written entirely by a single author or by joint authors who share responsibility for the whole book. Includes:

  • scholarly books
  • research monographs
  • textbooks based on significant research (as defined above) by the author(s)
  • revisions / new editions of the above, providing this includes substantial new research material
  • novels, plays and screenplays
  • collections of plays, poems, short stories or other creative writing by the author(s).
B - Edited book  PDF  Actual book (if the edition is in multiple volumes, submit representative volume in the first instance) 

A book or volume in which individual chapters or contributions have been written by different authors. To submit a work in this category, the editor must have had sole responsibility, or be identified as having made a substantial contribution to the editing, choices for inclusion, and underpinning process of investigation. Includes:

  • edited books or volumes
  • textbooks or encyclopaedias where significant background research is required
  • annotated anthologies where research informs the annotations
  • revisions or new editions of the above, providing this includes substantial new research material
  • literary translations, where these contain significant editorial work in the nature of research. 
C - Chapter in book  PDF upload of chapter and page(s) of the book that bear the title, publisher, editor, and publication date  Actual book or hard copy of chapter including a copy of the page(s) of the book that bear the title, publisher, editor and publication date 

This category includes contributions to edited books. This may include scholarly work, such as:

  • chapters in edited books
  • entries in textbooks incorporating significant research content
  • entries in scholarly editions
  • entries in revisions or new editions, providing this includes substantial new research material
  • translations where these contain significant editorial work which constitutes research.
R - Scholarly edition  If not available in print, pdf upload of short written description of the scholarly edition, including details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) Actual scholarly edition 

An edition of another author's original work or body of works informed by critical evaluation of the sources (such as earlier manuscripts, texts, documents and letters) often with a scholarly introduction and explanatory notes or analysis on the text and/or original author.

This may include a translation of the original text(s) where this constitutes part of the research. 

Journal articles   
D - Journal article  Submit with DOI: REF team to source. If REF team is unable to source then HEI to upload pdf of article / conference contribution.  n/a (if only hard copy is available the HEI should upload a scanned pdf) 

A scholarly paper, usually on a specific topic, published in an externally circulated scholarly or professional journal that has an ISSN. This may include:

  • full research articles
  • critical scholarly texts which appear in article form
  • review articles, where these meet the definition of research for the REF
  • evidence synthesis, including systematic reviews, analyses, metaanalyses, metasyntheses, where these meet the definition of research for the REF
  • rapid communication (short papers, usually published swiftly, in scholarly journals presenting original material
  • discussion paper (short articles in scholarly journals that critically address specific results or data provided in a published research paper) 
  • creative article, including photographic essays.
E - Conference contribution  Submit with DOI: REF team to source. If REF team is unable to source then HEI to upload pdf of article/conference contribution.   n/a (if only hard copy is available the HEI should upload a scanned pdf)  

A conference paper or other contribution published in conference proceedings. The conference proceedings will usually have an ISSN or ISBN and may be published in a number of formats, such as:

  • volume of proceedings
  • special or normal edition of a journal
  • book or a monograph
  • website.

Submitted outputs may include:

  • full written papers that appear in published conference proceedings
  • other conference contributions which meet the definition of research. 
U - Working paper  Submit with DOI: REF team to source. If REF team is unable to source then HEI to upload pdf of article / conference contribution.   n/a (if only hard copy is available the HEI should upload a scanned pdf) Research papers disseminated to encourage discussion and suggestions for revision. This may be through pre-print dissemination, lodging in an institutional repository, or self-publication for distribution. 
Physical artefacts    
L - Artefact  PDF upload of photographic / visual record of output, or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI)  Photographic / visual record of output (paper and/or DVD/CD/USB) 

Artefacts, objects or craftworks, exhibited, commissioned or otherwise presented or offered in the public domain, eg, visual arts, craft, and cultural creations. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • illustration
  • sculpture
  • media installations
  • ceramics
  • jewellery
  • metalwork
  • buildings
  • cultural artefacts, such as large permanent public sculptures. 
P - Devices and products  PDF upload of photographic / visual record of output, or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI)   Photographic / visual record of output (paper and/or DVD/CD/USB)  

An element, system or substance developed to perform a particular function, set, or combination of functions. Incorporates developing the concept and the design and development of any chemical, mechanical, electronic and software components and, where appropriate, the overall system architecture.

  • use may be functional, aesthetic, or commercial
  • may be physical, including chemical or compound, ie, medicines
  • may include digital/virtual products for particular functions, ie, gaming, analysis, display
  • may include services, ie, transportation, energy supply, public broadcasting, healthcare systems
  • may be associated with the manufacturing, extraction and refinement of other devices. 
Exhibitions and performances    
M - Exhibition  PDF upload of photographic / visual record of output, or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) and evidence of year of dissemination  Representation of the output (eg, recording or photographic/visual record) and evidence of year of dissemination (paper and/or DVD/CD/USB) 

A single or series of public events or short-term, long-term or permanent installations, at which works of interest are displayed.

Submissions can be:

  • solo exhibitions
  • curation of exhibitions
  • contributions to collaborative group exhibitions.

Submissions may include:

  • original artistic works and/or designs
  • historical, political, social, technical / technological or scientific research and information
  • works exhibited in non-standard environments
  • curating an exhibition. 
I - Performance PDF upload of photographic / visual record of output, or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) and evidence of year of dissemination Representation of the output (eg, recording or photographic / visual record) and evidence of year of dissemination (paper and/or DVD/CD/USB)

A live or recorded first performance (by, for example, an actor, musician, dancer, conductor, artist) to an external audience. The 'author' can have one (or more) of a variety of major roles (eg, lead performer, director, writer) in the production, which should meet the REF definition of research. The role should be specified within the additional details required, with details of other participants involved in the research.

Includes (but is not limited to):

  • performance of a play, musical, opera, concert, television or radio production, performance artwork
  • theatre productions (stage play, mime, circus, puppet show, variety act, comedy show)
  • concerts and recitals (music or dance)
  • broadcast performances and other modes of presentation
  • production of an audio/visual medium (such as CD or DVD recording)
  • artistic direction of a staged production
  • input into a theatre production (eg, design, dramatology).
Other documents   
F - Patent / published patent application PDF upload of published patent application / granted patent Published patent application / granted patent (paper)

Granted patents, copyrights, trade marks, or registered designs on specific products or processes. Patents can have been granted in the UK or another patent-awarding country.

The patent should have been granted for the first time during the assessment period.

J - Composition Details of how audio recording (if available) can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI), and PDF upload of score and evidence of year of dissemination Audio recording (if available) and score and evidence of year of dissemination (paper and/or DVD/CD/USB)

An original published/publicly available score, first performance or first recording by a record label of a musical composition. Can include (but is not limited to):

  • compositions created while being played,eg, electronic compositions, jazz improvisation
  • published / publicly available score
  • recordings
  • sound component of a film or video, lyrics, multimedia composition
  • commissioned works
  • combinations or developments of the above.
K - Design PDF upload of photographic / visual record of design or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) and evidence of year of dissemination Photographic / visual record of design and evidence of year of dissemination (paper and/or DVD/CD/USB)

A creative research / problem-solving output in the form of design drawings, books, models, exhibitions, websites, installations or built works. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • fashion design
  • textile design
  • graphic design
  • interior design
  • industrial design
  • architectural design
  • multimedia design
  • sound design
  • exhibition design (ie, not the content of the exhibition)
  • theatre design
  • other designs.
N - Research report for external body PDF upload of report or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) bearing year of publication / dissemination Hard copy of report and evidence of year of receipt (eg, letter, email, delivery notice)

Non-confidential reports, commissioned and/or funded by an external organisation, including reports for private companies, government departments and non-governmental organisations.

O - Confidential report for external body PDF upload of report and evidence of year of receipt (eg, letter, email, delivery notice) Hard copy of report and evidence of year of receipt (eg, letter, email, delivery notice) Confidential reports commissioned and/or funded by an external organisation, including reports for private companies, government departments and non-governmental organisations. For clarity, confidential material is not in scope of the open access requirements (see main text, paragraphs 213-214 for details of in-scope outputs).
Digital artefacts   
G - Software PDF upload of written description of the software and details of how the software, and if relevant, the source code can be accessed (eg, URL, DOI) n/a

Originally researched, created and published software (computer programs and their associated documentation, consisting of a set of instructions written by a programmer) or database products of commercial quality, which has been made publicly available.

May include (but is not limited to):

  • operating systems
  • utilities
  • application programs
  • interactive multimedia
  • video games
  • logic systems.
H - Website content PDF upload of content as at date of publication (eg, a date certified electronic copy of content) or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) Content as at date of publication, eg, a date certified electronic copy of content (DVD/CD/USB) or date-stamped printout of content (paper)

A collection of material which embodies research and is undertaken on a systematic basis specifically for dissemination through a website and/or as an interactive approach to allow users to engage directly with the process or products of the research.

Web content is the textual, visual, or aural content encountered as part of the user experience on websites. It may include - among other things - text, images, sounds, videos and animations.

May present factual information, analysis or data, or fictional, imaginative and/or creative work, using pictorial, video, audio, etc.

Q - Digital or visual media Details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) and evidence of year of dissemination Either a copy of the published DVD, CD or other visual output; or for outputs that were broadcast, a digital or other visual copy of the content and evidence of year of dissemination

Research outputs presented in digitised and/or audio-visual format, such as:

  • films
  • documentaries
  • audio-visual presentations
  • computer games
  • animation

Encoded in digital format, machine readable and presenting and forms of communication not limited to verbal and text-based means.

S - Research data sets and databases PDF upload of written description of the dataset or database and details of where it can be accessed (eg, URL, DOI) where relevant. Do not submit copies of actual datasets or databases n/a

Submissions may include:

  • Data sets: May come in a variety of formats, for instance in spreadsheets, but also any collection of data on which analysis can be performed. Most commonly a data set corresponds to the contents of a single database table, or a statistical data matrix, where every column of the table represents a particular variable, and each row corresponds to a given member of the data set.
  • Databases: Collections of data specifically organised and presented for the ease of viewing, retrieval and analysis. May comprise multiple data setc. Often characterised by data field structuring and searchability tools.
Other   
V - Translation PDF upload of output or description of the output, or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) The actual output (paper or USB)

A translation of a work or body of works by another author or authors, informed by critical evaluation of the sources (such as earlier manuscripts, texts, documents and letters), and by critical analysis of the work's original cultural context for the new readership.

Translations may also include a scholarly introduction and explanatory notes or contextual analysis. Translation may enhance existing understanding of the material in question, and may provide evidence of creativity in its own right.

T - Other PDF upload of representation of the output or details of how it can be freely accessed (eg, URL, DOI) and, if not clear from the output, evidence of year of dissemination Either the actual output or a representation of the output; and, if not clear from the output, evidence or year of dissemination (paper and/or DVD/CD/USB)

Other forms of assessable output meeting the definition of research but not captured within any of the above categories. This may include (but is not limited to):

  • new materials
  • structures
  • images
  • buildings
  • food products and processes
  • published geological and/or geomorphological maps
  • creative bodies of enquiry
  • design processes / programmes of research
  • multi-platform project.
e,

My research has resulted in benefits to, and impact upon, wider society - can it be submitted to REF 2021?

Please complete the impact case study template. The Research, Innovation and Enterprise office has employed an external REF impact consultant to assess and advise on impact case study preparation for REF. Completed impact case study templates will be passed on for review, and if the REF 2021 criteria are met a consultation can be arranged, and following the development of action plans support can be arranged to assist with evidence gathering and consolidation of impact in preparation for REF submission. 

How is the REF assessed?

Academic experts are appointed to REF UoA sub-panels and review all the research submissions. Research users also sit on panels and provide input into the assessment of impact case studies.

What is the role of the main panel?

There are four main panels (A-D) who comprise a group of expert researchers representing a broad discipline area whose role is to lead and oversee the conduct of the sub-panels under their remit. They are responsible for setting the assessment criteria, working methods and consistency of approach and adherence to criteria across the sub-panels.

What if there is a conflict of interest for a sub-panel reviewer?

Where a sub-panel member declares an interest they do not participate in the assessment of departments or institutions where it may be perceived that they could be open to external influences, for example; where they or a close family member are employed.

How are research outputs submitted to the REF

Eligible research output information will be extracted from content recorded on Pure.

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