Implementing Stern: first key decisions on REF 2021 announced

Implementing Stern: first key decisions on REF 2021 announced

Following consultation earlier in the year, the funding bodies have set out initial decisions in several areas of the next Research Excellence Framework (REF).

These first decisions set out our implementation of the Stern review recommendations on REF (notes 1, 2). This includes:

  • Deepening understanding of research impact through improved guidance and broadening the relationship between research and impact.
  • The introduction of key measures to underline the essential role of interdisciplinary research and support its submission and assessment in the exercise.
  • Piloting assessment at the level of the institution, to explore both the opportunities identified in this, as well as some of the issues and concerns raised, in the consultation.

The initial decisions also set out information on how to apply for the role of sub-panel chair.

These key decisions were informed by responses to the consultation on the second REF (note 3). The consultation set out proposals for implementing the recommendations of the Stern review, along with further detailed proposals informed by evaluation of REF 2014.

The funding bodies will set out further decisions on the REF later in the autumn, on aspects including the submission of staff and output portability. These will be informed by ongoing dialogue with the sector on the best approach to implementation of the recommendations in these areas.

Kim Hackett, REF Manager, said: ‘We are delighted with the excellent response we received to our consultation, which has been crucial to informing the decisions we have set out. The success of the exercise is dependent on this collaborative development, and we look forward to continuing this work as we move towards the detailed guidelines for 2021.’


  1. Read the Initial decisions on REF 2021
  2. Lord Stern led an independent review of the REF, ‘Building on Success and Learning from Experience’, which reported in 2016. The review set out key recommendations on the design of the next exercise.
  3. Read the consultation