WCC UK REF Consultation Event – summary of key points
We are very grateful to WCC UK member Christine Plastow of the Open University for writing up her notes of important take-away points and for sharing her response from our recent REF 2021 consultation event.
On Tuesday 18th September, the WCC UK met at the Open University campus in Milton Keynes to consult on the draft guidelines for submission for REF 2021. We were also able to livestream the event, and so were joined by colleagues around the country listening in and contributing. The event was led by Maria Wyke, the sub-panel chair for Classics, and Katherine Harloe, member of the Classics sub-panel and an interdisciplinary advisor for REF 2021.
Professor Wyke opened the discussion, stating that the event was an opportunity for the sub-panel to present the material produced by REF, and that REF were interested in gathering information about whether disciplinary interests have been addressed successfully in the draft guidelines. What follows here highlights the main points of discussion throughout the event.
Codes of practice
It was noted that institutions have been tasked with producing codes of practice prior to REF 2021 for the selection of staff and outputs for submission. The staff selected should be all of those with significant responsibility for research. Concern was expressed for the institution’s individual freedom in making these decisions. The sub-panel members asserted that codes of practice would be assessed by REF, in part against HESA definitions of staff roles. Codes of practice can be sent back for revision if deemed inadequate, and submissions could be damaged by institutions failing to provide a correct submission. However, if institutions do not adhere to their codes of practice once approved, this will need to be appealed by individuals within the institution, as the sub-panel will not be able to spot failure to adhere to the code of practice from the submissions. All codes of practice must include an appeals procedure.
Institutions will be expected to provide commentary on any adjustments to the submission due to special circumstances. However, decoupling of staff from submissions means that outputs are a group effort, and it may not be necessary to apply reductions to specific individuals. Two kinds of reductions are specified: defined reductions, such as maternity leave, where the reduction will be by a pre-set number of outputs; and reductions requiring judgement, generally more complicated circumstances, which will require assessment as to the reduction in number of outputs. The reduction in number of submissions for maternity leave since the last REF, from 1 output to 0.5 outputs, is due to the reduction in average number of outputs per staff member (from 4 to 2.5 outputs) and the longer assessment period of this REF (7 years, as opposed to 5 years for REF 2014).
A query was raised about the use of the word ‘eligible’ in section 180 of the draft guidelines. Attendees were concerned that this would permit universities to exclude staff with 2* research outputs. The sub-panel noted that universities would have to provide reasoning for any staff who were excluded, and that this would not be considered a valid reason. They also noted that the guidelines ought to encourage institutions to support all staff to produce excellent research, and that REF encourages this, although this may not be the effect in reality. Continue reading →