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Three new reports providing insights into the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) have been published by the UK university funding bodies.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) drives research excellence across the UK and informs the allocation of around £2 billion of research funding each year.

The series of reports consists of an in-depth analysis of the costs of the REF; an investigation of outcomes for staff with equality-related characteristics; and a summary of engagement activities.

According to the costs report, the extension of REF 2021 to include submissions from a much larger number of staff contributed to an around 50% increase in costs to universities. However, in a community survey carried out as part of the report, the vast majority of respondents believed the overall benefits of REF 2021 outweighed the overall costs. The next REF will incorporate measures to reduce costs by an estimated £100 million.

The EDI report on outcomes for staff with equality-related characteristics found evidence that people with some characteristics were less likely to be included in REF submissions and more likely to receive lower scores for their output. The findings from the report will inform the design of codes of practice for the next REF.

The multifaceted engagement report includes feedback on REF 2021 from both individuals and institutions as well as a real-time review aimed at better understanding perceptions of the REF.

The next REF will conclude in 2028 and will assess research and impact between 2021 and 2027.

More information on the reports is available on the Jisc website.