Research Excellence Framework: Measuring Our Success

So what is the REF?

Recently the new REF results were published. “What is the REF?” I hear some of you say. Well, unless you work in a University, then the chances are that you have not heard of the REF, or if you have, you don’t really know much about it. This post will hopefully make things a little clearer for you!

The REF stands for the Research Excellence Framework and it is a national review of the research conducted at UK Universities. This recent review was newsworthy because, for the first time, the research was also judged on its impact.

This leads us to a further question: What is impact? The Research Councils UK (RCUK) defines research impact as “the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy”. So although research can have an “impact” in the academic world, what is really key here is the impact outside of academia, e.g. has it made a difference in the real world?

Why is the REF important?

The government allocates a substantial amount of public funding for research conducted at Universities. Therefore, it is understandable that they want to ensure that this research is of a high quality and that is of benefit to society. So the REF assesses each University in the UK and then later in the year the results from this assessment are used to calculate how much funding that University will receive. It is important to note that this kind of review is not completely new; in fact, national reviews of this kind have been conducted roughly every five years since 1986. However, what was is new this year is the inclusion of impact.

Arguably, the inclusion of impact into the criteria can only be a good thing for the future of research. The main reason that I pursued a career in Psychology was to try to understand issues within society. In my case, I research bullying within schools. I think it is extremely important that what I find in my research feeds back into schools in order to help try and tackle this problem.

What were our results?

81-98% of research undertaken and submitted to the 2014 REF by staff in Psychology across a range of units of assessment has been recognised as world leading or internationally significant. CCCU’s submissions to the REF 2014 improved upon the results from the previous RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) review. This represents growth in our established research areas as well as new, emerging areas of research excellence. Well done to all staff involved!

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