1. In view of the increased COVID-19 infection rate and the related measures introduced across the four nations of the UK in early January 2021, the funding bodies have reviewed whether any further contingency arrangements should be put in place for REF 2021. I am writing to you to confirm the decisions that the funding bodies have taken on this matter. Some of the arrangements will require further detail, which we will provide by 29th January 2021.
2. The funding bodies and the REF team understand the challenges posed by the wider context in finalising the preparation of REF submissions. In particular, we know that the availability of clinical staff to input into submission preparation has been greatly affected by redeployment of many clinical and health-related staff to frontline services in the NHS. We also recognise that the involvement of research management and administration staff is critical at this stage of the submission process, and that the current lockdown restrictions, school closures and wider institutional priorities are likely to affect both academic and professional services staff capacity during this period. We recognise this may be particularly acute for some institutions that have very limited resource available to manage submission processes. A continued challenge is also posed in preparing physical outputs for delivery to the REF library.
3. It remains important to recognise the considerable investment made by institutions in the submission process to date. Additionally, we acknowledge the significant effort that has gone into preparing submissions for 31st March 2021, and the need institutions have to direct resource to other priorities in the period We understand that there will be wide variation across institutions in the extent to which REF preparations are being impacted by COVID-19. We have not received evidence widely supporting any further general delay to the process and do not wish for further resource to be invested by institutions beyond what is needed to complete the submission process.
4. The funding bodies have therefore agreed additional measures that seek to balance the above issues together, along with the aim of minimising effects on the assessment schedule for the panels. The following arrangements are intended to help institutions to support staff wellbeing and manage resource in the most appropriate way for them, and to mitigate risks around individual institutions being unable to meet the submission deadline.
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