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FAQs

For general information on the REF exercise including its purposes and how it is conducted, please visit the following pages of the REF website:

Guide to the REF Results

Key Facts leaflet

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) relate to the REF 2021 results. They have been grouped by category.

Results

When does the ‘Codes of practice complaints and investigation process’ for REF 2021 close?

The Codes of practice complaints and investigation process will close on 15 July 2022. This deadline has been extended by two weeks to account for the later publication of the REF results, which was adjusted from April to May 2022 due to the pre-election period in place throughout April and early May.

Can you provide the scores for my outputs that were submitted to the REF?

Individual outputs were assessed in order to produce the output sub-profiles for each submission. Once the sub-profiles were complete, the scores for individual outputs were no longer required and have been destroyed. In accordance with data protection principles, we no longer hold the scores for individual outputs as they constitute personal data, which should not be held for longer than required to fulfil their purpose. 

Will the assessment results for individual outputs or impact case studies be published? 

No, the REF results are published only at whole submission level.  

If there are no results listed for an HEI in a particular unit of assessment, what were the results?  

HEIs could decide how to map their staff into units of assessment (UOAs) for REF 2021. If there are no results for an HEI in a particular UOA, it did not make a submission to that UOA.   

Some submissions have an overall quality profile, but the sub-profiles are not provided. Why?  

We do not publish sub-profiles for any submission whose headcount of submitted staff is three or fewer, because of the inferences that could be drawn about the quality of the published outputs of individual researchers in very small submissions.    

How can there be two sets of results for an HEI in a particular unit of assessment (UOA)?  

HEIs could apply to make multiple submissions in the same unit of assessment. The outcome of the REF 2021 is an overall quality profile for each submission made by each HEI; each HEI has one overall quality profile per submission.   

What does the percentage of eligible staff mean?

The published percentage of eligible staff within a submitting unit shows the percentage of staff determined to have significant responsibility for research, and who were therefore submitted in that UOA, out of the total staff meeting the eligibility criteria for REF.  

How can the results of the REF 2021 be compared to the REF 2014?  

Following implementation of the recommendations of the independent review of REF 2014 by Lord Stern, significant changes were made to the submission of staff and outputs for REF 2021. These changes limit how far meaningful comparisons can be drawn between the two exercises. For further information on the key differences between REF 2014 and REF 2021, please see the Guide to REF results. 

Will impact case study examples be featured on the REF website?  

All impact case studies will be published as part of the submissions and in a searchable database format in June 2022.   

What might a future research assessment look like?

The Future Research Assessment Programme (FRAP) has been initiated to explore possible future approaches to the assessment of UK higher education research assessment. The work will include evaluation of REF 2021 as well as understanding international research assessment practice and investigating possible evaluation models and approaches. The future assessment system is being developed in close consultation with the sector. 

What is the timeline for FRAP?

FRAP’s work is expected to conclude by late 2022. 

Results and submissions website 

When I download a spreadsheet version of impact case studies there are a lot of additional characters (such as ##, \, *) in the text, why is this?

The spreadsheet export of the impact case studies returns the raw data for the case studies as extracted from the database.  This content is formatted using markdown language, a simple formatting language for web-based content. This enables the database to display formatted case studies on pages in the database.  See https://www.markdownguide.org/ for further information on the usage of markdown.

I'm trying to download submissions data but it times out - why is this?

Generating large files of data (spreadsheets or zip files of PDFs) will take some time to run. The system will time out after 3 minutes when trying to generate a large file.  If you are experiencing difficulties with large exports please try the following:

  • Export all data for a single UOA or HEI; these files have been pre-prepared so will download successfully
  • Reduce your results to a smaller number of items and download multiple files.

The technical team are currently working on a solution for large downloads and we expect this to be resolved over the summer 2022.

How can I use the website to find results for my HEI?

Comprehensive help for the use of the results website can be found here.

Why is the text search in the impact database different to the text search in the output database?

The impact case study database has a powerful search tool to support more advanced search techniques with large portions of text and multiple fields. As the output database search is only utilising the title field, we have implemented a far simpler keyword search. As a result, you cannot employ advanced search techniques like AND, OR, NOT when using the output database search.

Pre-results

How will HEIs receive their own results under embargo on 9 May 2022 and all results for the exercise under embargo on 10 May?

Results will be provided securely via the Submissions system.  Only individuals designated as an ‘Authorised Submitter’ for their institution will be able to login to access and download the results.  To check who your authorised submitters are, please ask a Submission system admin user at your HEI to log in to the submissions system to view this, or you can contact the REF user support team at usersupport@ref.ac.uk. 

When will HEIs receive the updated results ‘comms guidance pack’ and what will this include?

Following circulation on 29 April of the comms pack for HEIs to aid their planning and preparations for the release of the REF 2021 results, an updated version will be made available via the submission system at 9:00 on 10 May. This version will also include a copy of the REF team’s press release and any other general updates.