The set of measures agreed by the funding bodies are aimed at supporting universities to address the challenges identified in an appropriate way for each individual institution. This responds to evidence and views received, which have highlighted the differences in effect being felt across different universities. The funding bodies have not received evidence widely supporting any further general delay to the process.
Universities raised concerns about effects on REF preparations when COVID restrictions were tightened across the four nations of the UK in early January, in response to rising levels of infection. This includes effects where clinical academic staff are being called to frontline services, and for research professional staff in finalising submissions under the lockdown restrictions in place.
The REF team has now written to universities to set out the additional measures. The measures include lifting the requirement for the evidence corroborating impact case studies to be submitted directly to the REF team. The evidence will still need to be held by universities in the event of audit, but this decision removes the immediate need for this material to be ready for submission. Universities will still have the option to submit it, where it is already prepared. The funding bodies have also allowed submission extensions to be requested for the narrative templates for impact and the environment, where preparation of this documentation has been affected by COVID-19. Under this provision, universities can request up to an additional six weeks to finalise their templates. Further measures include flexibility to alter submitted data where errors are identified for a fixed period after the deadline and adjustments to the audit process.
The funding bodies are also putting in place a mechanism to review any emergency requests for an extension to the deadline where unexpected circumstances have affected the ability of an individual institution to meet the deadline as planned.
The REF team will provide further detail around specific aspects of the measures by 29 January 2021.
The letter on 'Decisions on further contingency measures' can be found here: https://www.ref.ac.uk/publications/decisions-on-further-contingency-measures