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Research Excellence Framework


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The UK funding bodies are committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity in research careers.  To reflect this commitment during the REF process, a set of measures have been put in place to support staff with individual circumstances, including providing flexibility to institutions in building the portfolio of outputs for submission, and putting in place robust processes to recognise the effect that an individual's circumstances may have on their productivity.  There are many reasons why an excellent researcher may have fewer or more outputs attributable to them in the assessment period (1 January 2014 - 31 December 2020).  It is therefore not expected that all staff members will be returned with the same number of outputs attributed to them in the submission.  


Requirements for the submitted output pool

The total number of outputs returned from each submitting Unit of Assessment must be equal to 2.5 times the combined FTE of eligible staff included in the submission.  A minimum of one output is required for each eligible member of staff.  For example, let's say that UoA is submitting a total of 100 FTE staff.  A total of 250 outputs are required (100 x 2.5 = 250).  A minimum of one output is required from each of the 100 staff members assigned to the UoA (100 x 1 = 100).  The additional outputs (150) required are provided by the remaining output pool of the 100 staff members (100 + 150 = 250).  Some staff members may be returned with only one output attributed to them, whilst other staff members may be returned with up to five outputs attributed to them.

The University does not consider the REF to be an assessment of individual staff members.  Accordingly, collective academic judgement must determine the optimal presentation of the University's research capabilities for REF purposes, i.e., the selection of the output pool for submission.  Furthermore, there is no expectation beyond the minimum requirement of one output per eligible staff member set by Research England on an individual's contribution to the submission.


Measures to support staff with individual circumstances

In line with the REF Guidance on Submissions, the University has established safe and robust processes to enable staff members to declare voluntarily their individual circumstances so that we may take these into account when preparing our submission.  These processes are documented in the Code of Practice, paragraphs 43 - 50.  As part of this process, the Central REF Team will be writing periodically to members of staff to give them the opportunity to make a voluntary declaration, by inviting them to complete a form about their individual circumstances.  Individual staff members are best placed to consider whether circumstances have affected their productivity over the REF assessment period, and are not required to complete and return the form where they do not wish to do so.  All declarations will be processed with the highest level of confidentiality by an independent senior University Committee.  


Summary of applicable circumstances

The funding bodies have identified the following equality-related circumstances that, in isolation or together, may significantly constrain the ability of submitted staff to produce outputs or to work productively throughout the assessment period.  Where required, Units of Assessment may request a reduction, without penalty, in the total number of outputs required for a submission.  In addition, in all UoAs, an individual may be returned without the required minimum of one output without penalty, where the nature of the individual's circumstances has had an exceptional effect on their ability to work productively throughout the assessment period, so that the staff member has not been able to produce the required minimum of one REF eligible output.  

Qualifying as an ECR 
Absence from work due to secondments or career breaks outside the HE sector
Qualifying periods of family-related leave
Junior clinical academics who are still completing their clinical training in medicine or dentistry and have not gained a Certificate of Completion of Training or its equivalent prior to 31 July 2020
Ill health, injury, or mental health conditions
Constraints relating to pregnancy, maternity, paternity, adoption or childcare
Other caring responsibilities (such as caring for an elderly or disabled family member)
Gender reassignment
Other circumstances relating to protected characteristics listed in the Guidance on Codes of Practice, Table 1, or relating to activities protected by employment legislation


Circumstances related to COVID-19

In addition to the above, previously communicated circumstances, Research England has made additional provision (only) for the removal of the requirement for the minimum of one output attributed to each researcher where a combination of circumstances earlier in the assessment period and the effects of COVID-19 has had an exceptional effect so that the staff member has not been able to produce an eligible output within the assessment period. 

The provision includes consideration of effects due to applicable circumstances (such as ill health, caring responsibilities); other personal circumstances related to COVID-19 (such as furlough, health-related or clinical staff diverted to frontline services, staff resource diverted to other priority areas within the HEI in response to COVID-19); and/or external factors related to COVID-19 (for example, restricted access to research facilities).


For the tariffs for the defined reductions see Reductions for staff circumstances.  For examples, see Staff circumstances worked up examples.  Information on the Staff Circumstances Committee, constituted to receive self-declarations of staff circumstances, and the dates of future Committee meetings, see Staff Circumstances Committee.  For staff circumstances and compliance with the REF Open Access Policy, see Staff Circumstances and the REF Open Access Policy.