Westminster Higher Education Forum

Priorities for preparing for REF2021

Morning, Thursday, 30th April 2020

Central London


This seminar will examine the next steps for the Research Excellence Framework (REF). As higher education institutions prepare their submissions to REF 2021, discussion will draw on lessons from the development of the current cycle and look ahead to the next iteration of the Framework.

Attendees will discuss priorities for developing and further rewarding positive research environments and an inclusive research culture as part of the REF. It comes in the context of key sector initiatives aimed at fostering transparent and supportive research environments with the recent publication of the updated Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Concordat to Support Research Integrity expected to be published imminently.

This is expected to include discussion on research integrity and training, particularly for early career researchers, academic wellbeing and mental health, and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Delegates will also consider the influence of the REF on academic freedom. It comes amid concerns from some within the sector about a possible influence of the Framework in skewing research outputs away from a researcher’s original academic intent and values, with reports of some researchers being asked by their institutions to revise the focus of their research in order to accommodate the REF.

We also expect discussion on the significance of the open science movement for the next cycle of the Research Excellence Framework. With the UK HE funding bodies expected to carry out a consultation into future open access policy in the REF in the first quarter of 2020, delegates will consider how far the sector can move beyond REF 2021 requirements, including discussion on the suitability of currently-available publishing models, digital scholarly infrastructure and the future for open access monographs.

This comes in the broader context of the UK Research and Innovation Open Access Review looking to develop a clear, joined-up OA policy across UKRI, which is due to report in March 2020.

Further sessions will examine the impact criteria in the REF, with delegates expected to consider the significance of the increased weighting of impact case studies to 25 per cent. This follows the recent publication of findings from the Real-Time Review, commissioned by Research England to capture feedback from academics on the REF 2021 process, which found that some academics were concerned that the impact agenda had a negative effect on research cultures and encouraged ‘institutional game-playing’ strategies.

Delegates will also discuss best practice for delivering and demonstrating impact in research, along with latest thinking and evidence on effective impact assessment.

Keynote Speaker

Dr Steven Hill

Director of Research, Research England

Keynote Speaker

Dr Steven Hill

Director of Research, Research England


Professor Sylvia Walby

Professor of Sociology and Director, Violence and Society Centre, City, University of London and Chair, Sociology Sub-Panel, REF2021