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The four UK higher education funding bodies are launching the Future Research Assessment (FRA) Programme of work. This programme, initiated at the request of Ministers in the UK Government and Devolved Administrations, is a significant piece of work aimed at exploring possible approaches to the assessment of UK higher education research performance.

Through dialogue with universities, the programme seeks to understand what a healthy, thriving research system looks like and how an assessment model can best form its foundation. It will investigate possible different approaches to the evaluation of UK higher education research performance, looking to identify those which can encourage and strengthen the emphasis on delivering excellent research and impact, support a positive research culture, while simplifying and reducing the administrative burden on the HE sector.

In line with responsible research assessment practices, the programme will evaluate the current REF 2021 exercise, including examining the impact of COVID-19 and the mitigations put in place by the REF team. Alongside this work, the funding bodies will engage in extensive consultation with the sector to understand how future assessment exercises might best support a thriving, inclusive research system in the UK. A series of engagement events and a formal written consultation will aim to foster bold and creative discussions about the UK’s future research assessment system. This programme of work is expected to conclude by late 2022.

An International Advisory Group, chaired by Sir Peter Gluckman (President-elect, International Science Council), has been set up to advise the funding bodies in their evaluation and consultation activities. The Group will also assist in the development and evaluation of options for the future approach to national research assessment within the UK.

They are expected to provide a sounding board for emerging ideas, challenging the assumptions and scope of the programme, where appropriate. Members have been appointed from across the globe and represent a range of expertise and national contexts. Full membership can be found here along with the Terms of Reference for the Group.

“I look forward to working with my international colleagues to advise the funding bodies as they explore possible assessment models for the future. This is an exciting opportunity to consider how national research assessment can form the foundation for a healthy, inclusive and dynamic research system. It is important that we think about what we value as carefully as how we evaluate it and listen closely to priorities and concerns from across the UK’s research community.”

Sir Peter Gluckman

For further information please see the UKRI website.