Interdisciplinary research in REF 2028




The Physiological Society

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We were commissioned by The Physiological Society to review the UK Higher Education Funding Bodies Initial Decisions for REF 2028 in the light of recommendations from The Society’s 2021 report The future of interdisciplinary research beyond REF 2021

The Physiological Society | Research Consulting

This project followed on from work which The Physiological Society commissioned Research Consulting to deliver in 2021, leading to the publication of the report on The future of interdisciplinary research beyond REF 2021. The report celebrated interdisciplinary research (IDR), particularly for its growing importance in challenge-led and mission-driven research, and included recommendations for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF), as well as recommendations relevant to wider issues affecting IDR, such as academic publishing. In recognition of the influence of REF in driving change in the sector, it made specific recommendations for REF 2028:

  • improving identification and reward of IDR;
  • recognising the breadth of research teams involved in IDR;
  • providing opportunities to contextualise IDR activities in narrative elements of submissions; and
  • applying to wider practical use an improved understanding and characterisation of IDR.

The follow-up project considered the recommendations of The Physiological Society’s 2021 report in the light of five subsequent publications: the final report of the Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP) from REF 2021, three reports from the Future Research Assessment Programme (FRAP), and the Initial Decisions for REF 2028.

We looked at how specific recommendations from The Society’s 2021 report align with – and may have influenced – the initial decisions for REF 2028. We found, positively, that the Initial decisions correlate to at least some extent with 8 of the 10 recommendations from The Society’s report. We also suggested ways that further elements of The Society’s recommendations could be incorporated into final criteria, guidance and working methods through proactive engagement with current and forthcoming consultation opportunities and during the REF 2028 criteria-setting phase.

Outputs from the project included the published report, including a visualisation mapping The Society’s recommendations from 2021 to the Initial Decisions for REF 2028, and a presentation in an online discussion session.