Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for the REF - independence and positive research environments, delivering and measuring impact, and the future of open access

Morning, Tuesday, 23rd March 2021

Central London


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine the next steps for the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The conference will bring together key stakeholders to consider the development of the current REF cycle - and assess the future role of the Framework in the post COVID-19 higher education landscape.

It follows the postponement of REF 2021, a recent consultation on the REF 2021 timetable and the announcement of a revised submission deadline in March 2021 being under consideration by the REF funding bodies, as well as evaluations of how to adapt the Framework to take into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key areas for discussion:

  • Influence of the REF on research integrity and academic freedom
  • Priorities for developing and further rewarding positive research environments and an inclusive research culture as part of the REF, looking at:
    • research integrity and training - particularly for early career researchers
    • academic wellbeing and mental health
    • safe research cultures, and
    • equality, diversity, and inclusion
  • Impact of the ruling from Research England that all staff with significant responsibility for research should be required to participate in the Framework
  • Significance of the open science movement for the next cycle of the Research Excellence Framework
  • How far the sector could move beyond REF 2021 requirements - including:
    • the suitability of currently-available publishing models
    • digital scholarly infrastructure, and
    • the future for open access monographs
  • Impact criteria in the REF, with delegates expected to consider the significance of the increased weighting of impact case studies to 25%
  • Best practice for delivering and demonstrating impact in research, along with latest thinking and evidence on effective impact assessment

Developments that are relevant to the discussion:

Uncertainty faced by university research during COVID-19 - with:

Fostering transparent and supportive research environments - with key sector initiatives aimed at providing support, and:

Diversity - with:

Safeguarding - with discussion expected on what has been learned and can be applied in future, in the context of:

  • the heightened need for safeguarding against possible abuses, and action to ensure a healthy research culture, in the face of emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic
  • resultant disruptions to oversight processes and safeguarding procedures in institutions
  • the recently released update to UKCDR’s Safeguarding Guidance, which lays out practical advice on ensuring safe researcher environments during the crisis

Research integrity - with discussion expected on:

  • 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
  • reports of some researchers being asked by their institutions to revise the focus of their research in order to accommodate the REF
  • indications of concern amongst some academics that the impact agenda was having a negative effect on research cultures and encouraged ‘institutional game-playing’ strategies
  • findings in the summary of the Real-Time Review commissioned by Research England to capture feedback from academics on the REF 2021 process

Funding - in the context of Government’s ambition to increase expenditure for research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027

Staffing - with:

Open access - looking at:

The agenda:

  • Key priorities for the REF
  • The Real-Time REF Review - outcomes from the pilot study
  • Research environments in the REF - stimulating positive cultures and wellbeing, academic independence and interdisciplinary research
  • Next steps for open research - alignment with UKRI open access policy and the broader open science agenda
  • Delivery and measurement of impactful research - the significance of increased weighting, ‘institutional game-playing’ and the evidence base for effective impact assessment

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

It’s certainly the case with this one. Places have been reserved by pass-holders from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, and officials from UKRI; the Government Office for Science; Defra; the Department for Transport; the Department of Health and Social Care; DFID and the Ministry of Justice.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Dr Steven Hill

Director of Research, Research England

Keynote Speaker

Dr Steven Hill

Director of Research, Research England


Lord Norton of Louth

Baroness Diana Warwick of Undercliffe


Dr Laura Bellingan

Science Policy Manager, Royal Society of Biology

Sofia Fernandes

Open Research Manager, University of Exeter

James Murray

Associate, Taylor Vinters

Professor Thom Brooks

Dean & Chair in Law and Government, Durham University

Professor Sylvia Walby

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

Dr Julie Bayley

Director of Research Impact Development and ARMA Director of Qualifications, University of Lincoln

Dr Emma Williamson

Reader in Gender Based Violence, University of Bristol

Professor Paul Phillips

Professor of Strategic Management, Kent Business School, University of Kent

Professor Anne Boddington

Pro Vice Chancellor, Research, Business & Innovation, Kingston University

Dr Juergen Wastl

Director Academic Relations and Consultancy, Digital Science

Professor Dave Jones

Dean, National Institute for Health Research Academy