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Research Impact: Ready for REF 2021

  • Wednesday, 02 October 2019
  • Ambassadors Hotel, Bloomsbury, London
  • 09:25 - 16:10
Expert Speakers
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  • Overview

The second round of the Research Excellence Framework, the UK's system for assessing the excellence of research in domestic higher education institutions, will be conducted in 2021. Since the first round of assessment in 2014, the REF has been developed in order to ensure that the exercise provides accountability for public investment in research and evidence of its benefit as well as further emphasising the importance of environments that support research. Ready For REF 2021 will deliver comprehensive, practical insights to assist in delivering high-quality outputs, measuring impact and nurturing research environments.

The agenda includes presentations designed to help higher education institutions improve outputs, processes, codes of practice and interdisciplinary research for REF 2021 submissions. Looking further afield, the conference will explore how clusters of universities are forming to enhance regional research capabilities and how domestic political uncertainty will impact the UK's collective research output and international contention.           

  • Confirmed Speakers

  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair's Opening Address


Keynote Address

"Organ Donation Research Programme: Impact Case Study - Institute for Health Research, University of Bedfordshire"

Professor Gurch Randhawa PhD FFPH DL is Research Lead for the Unit of Assessment 3 (Health) for the REF and authored the world-leading submission for REF2014 that influenced the domestic policy change on the organ donation opt-in.

In the opening keynote of the conference, Gurch will demonstrate how research teams can develop good impact case studies ahead of REF2021.

"The Impact of Impact"

With the introduction of Impact Case studies in REF2014 it became apparent that the thresholds for needing additional case studies introduced an (undesired?) effect into the submissions.  It was far more likely that a submission would be just below a threshold FTE than just above – the implication being that some researchers were not selected for submission that might otherwise have been – potentially detrimental to their careers.  For REF2021, in general, all eligible staff will be submitted.  Does this mean that the issue will be resolved?  Well, let’s explore that…

  • Kirsty Allen, Research Environment Lead and Head of REF Delivery, University of Oxford (confirmed)
"Life After Stern: Are You Ready?"

Reducing the burden of REF was a key aim of the Stern review. Kirsty Allen will speak about some of the practical challenges faced when implementing the recommended changes for REF 2021 at universities – in particular submission of all eligible staff; the culture shift to unit of assessment and institutional focus; diversifying impact; increased emphasis on promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity; and open research – and reflect on how to manage all of this in the year up to submission.

"Defining Staff with Significant Responsibility for Research: Demarcation or Enabling Empowerment?"

There has been concern that the new way of selecting staff for submission in REF2021 will hasten moves away from ‘teaching and research’ contracts to either teaching or research only. Thus, creating a new binary divide within institutions. But can the REF2021 guidelines be used to design a more inclusive model that negates the need for new terms of employment? At the University of Salford we started from the principle of no changes to contracts to build an approach based on academic career pathway and selection via 3-year personal research plans. By assessing future activity, it has been possible to empower academics without sacrificing the rigour necessary for a successful submission. The presentation will discuss the origins and effectiveness of the Salford model, and explore ways in which the data collected can influence research and impact opportunities.


Case Study

  • Simon Thomson, Lead Consultant and REF Project Manager , Web of Science Group (confirmed)
"What is Web of Science Group Providing to the REF"

Simon Thomson is leading Clarivate Analytics’ project to deliver citation data and support services to REF 2021. He also heads the Web of Science Group’s consulting team in the UK and Europe, and over the past decade has directed research evaluation projects for governments, funders and research institutions globally.  He has a PhD is in Structural Biology and has worked in information services and pharmaceutical research.


Panel Discussion


Coffee in the Networking Area

  • Tim Gore OBE, Chief Executive Officer, University of London Institute in Paris (confirmed)
"Mi-figue mi-raisin"

The University of London Institute in Paris has its roots dating back to the late 19th century and is that rare animal – a full UK campus on European soil.  Throughout its history it has been a nexus for Franco-British academic cooperation but in many different guises – as philanthropic society; as a part of the Université de Paris and as a campus of the University of London.  Is it a French, European or British? All our staff are on French contracts under French HR law but our degrees and research orientation is firmly towards the UK.  This ambiguous status – mi-figue, mi-raisin, brings both challenges and opportunities. We have a full research programme but are disqualified from entering REF2021.  Well at least we can function with European funding – can’t we?  Tim will describe the developing role of ULIP in its own research programme and as a bridge between the UK and the Continent outlining some of the pluses and minuses of being a hybrid.


Research is increasingly global and researchers regularly move to work overseas and travel to attend conferences and meet with collaborators. To capture trends and experiences of global movement, RAND Europe conducted a survey of 2,465 researchers across 109 countries on their experiences with visiting or relocating to other countries for research-related purposes. We found that researchers are indeed extremely internationally mobile, with over three quarters of respondents having moved to live in another country for research training or work at some point during their career. Researchers also see this as important to their work, with nearly all respondents stating that research benefits from researchers visiting or moving to other countries. They perceive that international movement has helped in forming collaborations and developing ideas, skills and expertise. But international movement is not without its challenges. Reported barriers to international movement include access to funding, family responsibilities, lack of information about jobs abroad and visa-related obstacles. And these barriers are not shared equally – with respondents who were nationals of African and Asian countries generally encountering more obstacles to international movement, and European researchers, supported by the flexibility and resources available to them within the EU, being particularly mobile. This talk will explore the patterns, benefits and challenges of mobility for researchers, and the implications for the future of the UK research system.


Case Study

Jurgen Wastl, Director of Academic Relations and Consultancy, Digital Science (confirmed)

"Leveraging AI and Machine Learning for REF Preparations "

Digital Science has applied automated categorisation of research publications according to the REF 2021 Unit of Assessment categories. Using Machine Learning and AI, we have categorised hundreds of thousands of publications based on the REF2014 REF2 output set. This enables application and use cases at the individual researcher, UoA and institutional level: University-wide developments over time and instant Benchmarking with any given institution at UoA level are now possible on publication level and beyond In the case of impact for the REF. Juergen Wastl will speak to the approach Digital Science has employed to achieve this ground-breaking development, as well as how the data and insights can save time, enhance continued case studies and bolster the reporting abilities of institutions submitting for the REF.

  • Adam Golberg, Research Development Manager (Charities), University of Nottingham (confirmed)
"“Some of us are looking at the stars” – Thoughts on the Longer Term Implications of the new REF Rules"

We are all in the gutter supporting REF preparations for this cycle while the rules are still being finalised, and rightly that’s taken up the bulk of available time, energy and focus. But the new REF rules (if fully implemented) have longer term implications for future research policy and strategy which perhaps aren’t being given enough attention.


Adam Golberg is Research Development Manager at the University of Nottingham. He tweets @Cash4Questions and blogs at


Panel Discussion

  • Tim Gore OBE, Chief Executive Officer, University of London Institute in Paris (confirmed)
  • Dr Susan Guthrie, Research Leader, RAND Europe (confirmed)
  • Adam Golberg, Research Development Manager (Charities), University of Nottingham (confirmed)

Lunch in the Networking Area


Chair's Afternoon Address

  • Helena Mills, Head of REF Policy, Research England (confirmed)

REF 2021 aims to assess the impact of excellent research undertaken within each submitted unit. This impact is evidenced by specific examples of impacts that have been underpinned by research undertaken within the unit. For REF 2021, impacts will be assessed in terms of their ‘reach and significance’, as they were for REF 2014. This keynote explores the definition of impact for REF 2021 alongside a discussion of how impact is assessed by the sub-panels. It also outlines continuities with the assessment of impact from REF 2014 and refinements to the assessment of impact for REF 2021.


Our research shows that three-quarters of the UK population does not engage with science. What can researchers do to more effectively reach these people? Katherine will present a new audience segmentation model, several case studies, a couple of pointers from social science, and a handful of practical tips for building impact with communities who don’t typically engage with science.


Afternoon Coffee Break


Case Study

Michael Francis, Marketing Manager, Researchfish (confirmed)

Katy Elliot, HEI Account Manager, Researchfish (confirmed) 

"Tracking Research and Evidencing Impact - Metrics for the REF"

This talk will cover how Universities use the data collected by the Researchfish platform to communicate the benefits of funding - in strategy and policy development; and understand better how research leads to impact.


Case Study

Charlie Rapple, Co-Founder, Kudos (confirmed)

For research to have impact, the people who can apply it need to find it and understand it. This requires a more systematic, evidence-based approach to communication, particularly to reach and engage audiences beyond academia. But there has been a gap between what researchers are expected to achieve, in terms of broader audiences and impact, and the skills and tools required to achieve that. Kudos is working to fill that gap. We provide a methodology and toolkit for planning, managing, measuring and reporting on engagement and impact activities, as well as showcases to help publicise research to different target audiences. In this talk we will show how Kudos Pro is being used at organisations including the Universities of Liverpool, Manchester, Kent, Melbourne and Newcastle.


Panel Discussion

Helena Mills, Head of REF Policy, Research England (confirmed)

Michael Francis, Marketing Manager, Researchfish (confirmed)

Katy Elliot, HEI Account Manger, Researchfish (confirmed)

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive, British Science Association (confirmed)


Chair's Closing Remarks and Event Close

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Contact Details




Ambassadors Hotel, Bloomsbury, London

Ambassadors Hotel, Bloomsbury, London

Overlooking a quaint Dickensian lane in the Bloomsbury literary district, this 19th-century hotel with a grand exterior and a modern contemporary interior is a 5-minute walk from Euston tube and train station.

Featured Events

  • Research Impact: Framework for Excellence

    • 04 October 2018
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Research Impact: Strengthening the Excellence Framework

    • 14 September 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre
  • Research Impact: Delivering Excellence

    • 05 July 2016
    • 08:30 - 16:15
    • Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre
  • Research Impact: Evidencing the REF

    • 14 July 2015
    • 08:30 - 13:30
    • King’s House Conference Centre, Manchester

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who will attend

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