​The rocky road to REF 2029

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The rocky road to REF 2029

Performance in the Research Excellence Framework continues to be a critical enabler of institutional success for UK universities. Ahead of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators’ annual conference in June 2024, we’re pleased to share a downloadable overview of the REF timeline and a new REF microsite, www.ref-ready.com.

Overview of key milestones

To help support institutions, we’ve recently prepared a one-page overview of funder milestones and key dates for institutions preparing submissions. We’ll be taking copies of this to the ARMA 2024 conference (taking place in Brighton, 18-19 June) and we’re looking forward to talking with research managers about their REF preparations at the Research Consulting stand.

When we first drafted this – version 1 was very popular at the UKSG November Conference 2023! – it was based on the plans for the next REF exercise to conclude in 2028. REF may be coming a year later than originally thought, but the importance of the process and the value of careful planning well in advance of submission haven’t changed.

The updated timeline shows key milestones from REF funding bodies and indicative timescales for institutional planning across each element of submission.

REF Ready Timeline


How Research Consulting can help

Research Consulting is a mission-driven research and scholarly communication consultancy, with unmatched expertise and deep knowledge of all aspects of the research process. We can offer advice and support to institutions on:

  • Strategy and governance – how to plan and manage REF preparations within the context of an institutional research strategy. Having a robust research strategy in place, as well as appropriate resourcing oversight and governance structures, will help your institution to plan the optimum submission for REF 2029.
  • Systems and reporting – the practical side of monitoring and compiling elements of a REF submission. Taking stock now of the current state of your systems, such as research information management/current research information systema, institutional repository, HR and finance systems used for reporting staff numbers and research finance information will enable you to prepare early for the requirements of REF 2029.
  • Impact and engagement – how to enable impact from research, and how to capture and report it. Building on current impact development work within your institution and reflecting the widening of relevant impact for REF 2028, there is still plenty of time to develop new impact based on research, as well as to identify impact which has already occurred and gather evidence.
  • People, culture and environment – with the PCE indicators project underway, this is a good time to take a step back and consider how to improve your institution’s research culture. From equality, diversity and inclusion considerations to infrastructure and support for interdisciplinary research, a review can help to identify areas of strength, opportunities for improvement and where data will be needed to evidence actions, activities and progress.
  • Outputs and open research – with the REF 2029 Open Access policy consultation underway, this is a good time to review and update institutional guidance and resourcing to support open research, which now encompasses access to monographs and data as well as journal articles.

We’ve previously worked with institutions and sector bodies on a range of REF-related projects, including with Imperial College to review the central co-ordination of their REF 2021 submission; reviewing Chemistry impact for the Royal Society of Chemistry through the lens of REF 2021, investigating attitudes to Open Research at the University of Liverpool and examining how The Physiological Society’s findings about interdisciplinary research were reflected in the Initial Decisions for the next REF.

To find out more about our previous projects in this area and about our team’s REF experience, please visit our dedicated REF Ready webpage, or get in touch to discuss a REF Readiness review.

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