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May 2010. The Research Excellence Framework: Enhancing the Economic, Social and Cultural Impact of Research Professor Nigel Vincent, Assoc V-P (Research) Dr Andrew Walsh, University Research Office. 2006: Gov’t asks HEFCE to replace RAE with a new system intended to reduce assessment burden

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May 2010

The Research Excellence Framework: Enhancing the Economic, Social and Cultural Impact of ResearchProfessor Nigel Vincent, Assoc V-P (Research)Dr Andrew Walsh, University Research Office

Ref background and timetable

2006: Gov’t asks HEFCE to replace RAE with a new system intended to reduce assessment burden

2007: Initial proposals for REF set out a wholly metric-based assessment for STEM subjects and a ‘light-touch’ peer review regime for non-STEM

2008: Revised proposals for a unitary system where balance between metrics and “supplementary qualitative information” will differ between subject groups

2009: Consultation on developed proposals, including substantial role for data on bibliometrics and assessment of the economic and social impact of research

2010: Consultation outcomes reduce role for bibliometric data and confirm range of other elements consistent with RAE

2010: National pilot impact assessment (UoM participates)

2013/14 (or later?): Full implementation of REF for all subjects with QR funding fully driven by REF outcomes

REF: Background and timetable

Ref structure
REF Structure intended to reduce assessment burden




Portfolio of all types of research

Range of impacts during the assessment period

Quality of environment, sustainability and engagement

Assessed primarily via expert review. Possible role for bibliometric data

Case study evaluation. Panels of user and academic members

Narrative and metrics

c. 60% weighting

c. 20-25% weighting

c. 15-20% weighting

Why this new focus on impact

More than a decade of greatly enhanced public investment in research

UK science budget has doubled in real terms from £1.3 billion in 1997-98 to almost £4 billion by end of 2010-11

Rationale? R&D as a public good

1. increasing the stock of useful knowledge;

2. training skilled graduates;

3. creating new scientific instrumentation and methodologies;

4. forming networks and stimulating social interaction;

5. increasing capacity for scientific and technological problem-solving;

6. creating new firms.

(The Relationship with Between Publicly Funded Basic Research and Economic Performance: A SPRU Review, HM Treasury 1996)

Why this new focus on impact?

What do we mean by impact

“A policy action has an researcheconomic impact when it affects the welfare of consumers, the profits of firms or the revenue of government… But the economic impacts of science and innovation are much more extensive than what can be captured by data on economic growth and productivity. The welfare and quality of life for consumers may be enhanced in a number of ways, including improved health and longevity; improved social outcomes; a clean, green and safe environment which supports the essentials of life: air, land, water and food; a safe and stable political environment and the maintenance of national security.”

(Measuring economic impacts of investment in the research base and innovation: a new framework for measurement, DTI, 2007)

What do we mean by impact?

Breadth of impact

Economic research


Quality of life

Types of impact

Public policy &





Breadth of impact

Issues in assessing impact

Definition – economic or wider impacts? research


Nature of knowledge transfer – linear or otherwise? How to measure HEI impact in a complex process?

HEFCE – The proposals are not about:

Quantifying impact

Focusing narrowly on economic impact

Assessing impact of every researcher or output

Trying to predict future impact

Discouraging curiosity-driven research

Trading-off impact and excellence

Internal impact data collection & case study development

Issues in Assessing Impact

How does the impact agenda change things for universities

Excellent research is still paramount research

Distinguish impact statements in REF and in grant applications

Impact stays with the institution

HEIs need to keep track of the consequences of research over a long timespan (20+ years)

Different types of impact with different disciplines

Different HEIs will have different missions

How does the impact agenda change things:for universities?

How does the impact agenda change things for the individual researcher

Distinguish needs of REF from the larger issue of relevance to employers’ needs

REF is case-study based so not every project needs to be ‘impactful’

Individuals should always be aware of and contribute to public engagement

Good to be aware of the larger social and global context of research

How does the impact agenda change things: for the individual researcher ?