Bournemouth University

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Developing & Assessing Impact for the REF

REF event

BU-HEFCE event provides advice and guidance on the Research Excellence Framework.

Last week Bournemouth University (BU) hosted a HEFCE-supported event outlining recent changes in how the quality of research in higher education is assessed.

The event, attended by over 150 delegates from 39 institutions, outlined the new Research Excellence Framework, or REF, which includes an assessment of research impact.

As Chris Taylor, Deputy REF Manager for HEFCE, explained: “REF will provide accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate its benefits.”

He continued: “Impact is defined as any contribution the research makes outside of academia. It is the higher education sector’s opportunity to shout about what it contributes to society.”

Professor Jim Griffiths from the University of Plymouth presented his experiences in the REF pilot exercise and outlined how his team identified and assessed impact and submitted case studies. Prevalent themes emerging from the pilot included the importance of a demonstrable chain of evidence from impact claim through to outcome, high quality research underpinning the impact claim and fostering the crucial relationship between academic and user.

Professor Goodwin from the charity Age UK explained how research can change society for people’s benefit, stessing the importance of “converting research into a message that will influence people’s thinking”. He gave the recent removal of the default retirement age as an example of how this can influence policy.

Other speakers included Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby (University of Kent), Professor Roy Harrison (University of Birmingham), Dr Kathryn Monk (Environment Agency Wales) and Dr Mari Williams (RCUK).

The event closed with a Q&A session with all speakers, giving delegates the chance to obtain further clarity on this assessment method, which will undoubtedly change the future of higher education research.

BU’s Pro-Vice Chancellor responsible for Research, Enterprise and Internationalisation, Matthew Bennett, said: “There has been sector-wide concern about how impact will be defined, collated and assessed in the REF, and this event provided excellent advice and guidance for academic staff likely to be submitting to the REF and those leading the submissions.”

The deadline for submissions is November 2013 and the assesment will be made in 2014.

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