Panel members sought for a REF environment pilot

Panel members sought for a REF environment pilot

12 October

The four UK higher education funding bodies invite expressions of interest to join a pilot panel for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

The panel will operate alongside REF 2021 to pilot a new approach to assessing the research environments of whole higher education institutions (HEIs). The term ‘research environment’ describes the setting in which research is conducted in institutions, and includes information about institutions’ research strategy, people, infrastructure and funding.

A key change for REF 2021 is that HEIs will be asked to provide an institutional-level environment statement. This sits alongside the environment statements each HEI will produce for each unit of assessment, or subject area, as they did in REF 2014.

The statement about the whole institution’s research environment will be provided to the 34 REF sub-panels for context but will not form part of the REF 2021 assessment. The pilot panel will use the institutional-level statements to test the viability of assessing whole institution environments for the REF after REF 2021. The panel will publish their recommendations in 2022, and the outcomes from the pilot will not contribute to the outcomes of the 2021 exercise.   

Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, Professor Chris Day, will chair the panel.

Professor Day said:

‘Building on my experience of chairing the Clinical Medicine panel for the last REF, I welcome the opportunity to assess the impact of institutional-level environment information with its potential to ease the burden of returns for HEIs.’

REF director, Dr Kim Hackett, said:

‘I am delighted to welcome Professor Day as chair of the pilot panel. His knowledge of institutional management, wide expertise, and experience of research assessment will be very valuable in guiding the work of the panel. This pilot will help our understanding of the ways and extent to which the institutional environment supports and influences research culture and the work undertaken by researchers. I very much look forward to working with Professor Day on this task.’

The introduction of an institutional-level submission for the environment was a key recommendation of an independent review of the REF, led by Lord Stern, and published in 2016. The recommendation sought to reduce duplication in submissions, enable the accurate representation of institutional-level activity, and capture institution-wide strategic objectives.

Following consultation in 2017, the HE funding bodies set out their decision to pilot the assessment of the institutional-level environment alongside REF 2021.  

Expressions of interest for membership of the pilot panel are invited from any individual meeting the criteria set out in the person specification, and should be submitted to by midday, Thursday 1st November 2018.


For media enquiries: Tamera Jones

For REF enquiries: Myles Furr


  1. Professor Day’s biography can be found at:
  1. Expressions of interest: institutional-level environment pilot panel members:
  1. Building on Success and Learning from Experience An Independent Review of the Research Excellence Framework -
  1. REF 2021 – REF assessments are a process of peer review, carried out by an expert sub-panel in each Unit of Assessment (UOA). Every element submitted to the REF will be graded on a scale from 4* (world-leading) to unclassified (did not meet the REF criteria).
  1. REF2021 will consist of three main scored elements:
  • Outputs
  • This makes up 60% of the assessment and consists of outputs produced by an institution during the assessment period (1st January 2014 to 31st December 2020).
  • Impact
  • This makes up 25% of the assessment and consists of case studies detailing the benefits from research.
  • Environment
  • This makes up the remaining 15% of the assessment and describes the environment we have to support our research. This includes research strategy, staff development and support for PGRs, collaboration both inside and outside academia and equality and diversity. It also includes data on research income and post-graduate degrees awarded.
  1. The institutional environment submission is a new element introduced for REF 2021