Westminster Higher Education Forum

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Next steps for the Research Excellence Framework

Morning, Tuesday, 5th March 2024


This conference will bring together policymakers and stakeholders to discuss the future of the Research Excellence Framework (REF).


It follows the publication of initial decisions on the high-level design of REF 2029, recently delayed from 2028, following concerns over plans to fully break the link between staff and institutional submissions. The delay also aims to allow universities to consider preparations needed to use HESA data to determine REF volume measures, and give providers more time to rework institutional codes of practice.


Discussion will explore the ongoing development of REF 2029 as well as the overall future of the REF, along with the impact of reform on research culture, environments and incentives.


We are pleased to be able to include keynote sessions with: Rebecca Fairbairn, Director of REF, Research England; Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive, MillionPlus Association for Modern Universities; and Marta Agostinho, Executive Director, EU-LIFE.


Overall sessions in the agenda include discussion on:

  • Early reactions to the high-level design of REF 2029:
    • Deliberation and implementation: considering practicalities of implementing the framework at both individual provider and wider sector levels
    • Submissions: discussing the split between staff and institutional submissions - changes to the nature of the framework’s administrative burden on research institutions
    • Implications for institutional behaviours: increasing the utility of the REF as a tool to improve research quality and impact - reworking of institutional codes of practice
    • Utilising data: preparations for using Higher Education Statistics Agency data to determine REF volume measures
    • Research culture and incentives: new weightings and their impact on the structure of the UK’s research culture - the potential for research to become more collaborative and interdisciplinary
    • Promoting research integrity: driving the move to open access through a decreased emphasis on individual contributions in favour of a wider departmental focus
    • Considerations for future REF design refinements: exploring concerns that the new REF doesn’t focus adequately on freedom of expression in its discussion of research cultures
  • REF in the research landscape:
    • Research funding: assessing the appropriateness of the REF as a mechanism to assign research funding - exploring alternative options for more formative assessment
    • Informing national strategy: utilising REF outcomes and results to inform national strategic priorities, identify competitive advantages and provide an evidence base for government policy and planning
    • Performance incentives: enhancing the REF as a tool of national research strategy - examining alignment of the REF with government priorities
    • International principles: latest thinking on European research assessment reform - impact on, and opportunities for, future alignment and collaboration across all levels

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from DAERA, NI; Defra; Department for the Economy, NI; Department of Finance, NI; DfE; DLUHC; DSIT; GO-Science; IPO; POST; UKHSA; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government.



Keynote Speakers

Rebecca Fairbairn

Director of REF, Research England

Rachel Hewitt

Chief Executive, MillionPlus Association for Modern Universities

Marta Agostinho

Executive Director, EU-LIFE

Keynote Speakers

Rachel Hewitt

Chief Executive, MillionPlus Association for Modern Universities

Rebecca Fairbairn

Director of REF, Research England

Marta Agostinho

Executive Director, EU-LIFE

Chair

Dr Sarah Fahle

Head of Research Impact, UK Health Security Agency

Speakers

Dr Karen Clegg

Director, Research Super-Vision Project, University of York

Dr Alexandra Freeman

Director, Octopus Publishing CIC

Professor James Wilsdon

Executive Director, Research on Research Institute; and Professor of Research Policy, University College London

Dr Annamaria Carusi

Director, Interchange Research

Anna Grey

Director of Research and Innovation Services, University of Dundee

Elizabeth Garcha

Head of Research Quality and Impact, University of Leeds

Dr Alex Lewis

Director of Research Strategy, The British Academy