Impact case studies get 25% weighting in REF2021

September 1, 2017

In a surprise move, HEFCE announced today that 25% of overall scores in REF2021 will come from impact case studies. It had widely been expected across the sector that impact would be given the same 20% weighting it received in REF2014.


Explaining the move in an "initial decisions" document released this morning, HEFCE explained that they were taking account of Lord Stern's suggestion that impact be 'deepened and broadened’, and had "taken account of discussions with the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on how the impact element of the REF could support the industrial strategy".




Everything you need to know about impact from HEFCE's announcement


Here's our summary of all the key things you need to know about impact in REF2021 from HEFCE's "initial decisions" document:

  • Impact to account for 25% of overall score in REF2021 (60% will come from outputs and 15% from environment)

  • We’ll need to describe our approach to “supporting collaboration” with organisations beyond the academy as part of the environment template

  • HEFCE will work with panels to provide more detailed guidance on how to assess significance and reach of impacts, implying that it is recognised different approaches may be needed in different panels

  • Impacts on University teaching will still have to be located beyond the submitting institution, but can now include impacts within the submitting institution as well

  • The recommendation to focus on the robustness of research underpinning impact (rather than significance and originality) has been rejected and impacts will still have to be supported by 2* outputs

  • Underpinning research will have to have been conducted between 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2020

  • Corroborating evidence will need to actually be submitted with case studies 

  • We don’t yet know the number of case studies that will be required, but it will be similar to last time and linked to number of outputs

  • Continued impacts that were submitted in 2014 will need to indicate that they were previously submitted and demonstrate what is additional to the impacts submitted previously (detailed guidance to follow)

  • It will be possible to base an impact case study on a broad body of work rather than specific publications (details to follow)

  • Institutional-level, interdisciplinary impact case studies will not be included. However, interdisciplinary research will be flagged with an identifier and its review overseen by at least one panel member dedicated to ensuring equitable assessment of interdisciplinary outputs. Evidence will need to be provided to show how interdisciplinary research is supported in each Unit (or why this is not relevant)



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