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Research Excellence Framework

The national and international impact of Scottish university research has been brought to life in hundreds of case studies published today.

8,675 academic staff at 18 Scottish institutions made submissions to REF 2021, the UK’s framework for assessing the quality of higher education research. In doing so they produced 746 case studies illustrating the benefits of their research. The case studies cover eight different types of impact with over 70% falling under the headings of society, technology and culture. A further 90 case studies are in areas relating to health and 65 cover environmental research.

A joint environmental research submission from the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University shows how they are helping to protect the UK’s remaining red squirrels. Working with partners in ecology, conservation and forest management, the research group used mathematical modelling to prove squirrelpox infection is a key factor in the decline of red squirrel populations.

Also amongst today’s case studies is an example of the University of Glasgow’s world-leading research into heart failure, a major cause of premature death. In 2016 the University led a study that transformed the treatment of the condition by underpinning the approval of sacubitril/valsartan, a ground-breaking drug now approved for use in 112 countries. Over1.4 million patients worldwide are currently benefitting from the drug.

At Abertay University researchers have increased the quality of counselling services for blind and partially sighted people across the UK. Work led by Dr Mhairi Thurston focussed on understanding the social and emotional effects of sight loss and how counselling can work to mitigate them.

Under the umbrella of cultural research, Edinburgh Napier University led a collaboration that included the iconic Abbey Road Studios and the BBC World Service to develop new ways of producing music. Their work is allowing performers to rehearse remotely and in real time and has benefits for both rural ensembles and leading international orchestras.

An engineering case study explains how researchers at the University of the West of Scotland are working on the next generation of autonomous sensors for ensuring energy efficient buildings. Their Smart Built Asset Management research programme has already improved the sustainability and comfort of buildings by demonstrating energy savings whilst also assuring the quality of indoor air.

The database of all REF 2021 case studies is available from today.