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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system used for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). It replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). Research assessment exercises are managed by a REF team based at Research England.


The University made a submission to the current assessment exercise, REF2021, on 31 March 2021, comprising 13 Units of Assessment.


The results of REF2021 are expected to be published in May 2022.


All enquiries should be directed to Ceri Bain, REF Project Manager, c.bain@napier.ac.uk.


REF2021 – Covid-19 Update


In March 2020, the REF team at Research England, acting on behalf of all the UK funding bodies made an announcement that the REF2021 exercise was on hold until further notice.


In June 2020, it was formally announced that the revised submission deadline has been extended from November 2020 to 31 March 2021. There is now also a universal extension to the impact period.


The census date for REF eligibility of staff remains the same (31 July 2020).


At end of July 2020 the Research Excellence Framework 2021 recommenced following a four-month, sector-wide postponement due to COVID-19.


The recommencement is accompanied by new guidance, describing revisions to the exercise made in view of the altered timetable and to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on submissions.




In November 2015 the Minister of Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, commissioned an Independent review of the Research Excellence Framework.


At the end of January 2019, the UK higher education funding bodies published the final guidance and criteria for REF 2021.


The Guidance on Submissions details how UK universities should make their submissions to REF 2021 and the Panel Criteria and working methods describes how the REF 2021 panels will assess the research.


For further information on REF2021, please contact Ceri Bain or speak with a Unit of Assessment leader (listed below).

Units of Assessment Leaders
Unit of Assessment Leader
3 Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy Paul Hutton and Peter Barlow
7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences Karen Diele
11 Computer Science and Informatics Ben Paechter
12 Engineering John McDougall
13 Architecture, Built Environment and Planning Mark Deakin
17 Business and Management Studies Gerri Mathews-Smith
18 Law Jill Stavert​
20 Social Work and Social Policy Kiril Sharapov
24 Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism Anna Leask​
​24 ​Sports Science specific and depute ​Gerraint Florida-James
27 English Language and Literature Linda Dryden
32 Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory Sam Vettese
33 Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts, Film & Screen Studies John Hails
34 Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management Chris Atton​
REF Professorial Leaders
Area Leader
Research Environment Professor Emma Hart

REF Steering Group


The University's REF 2021 Submission will be overseen by the REF Steering Group.


The group is responsible for formalising processes and overseeing and approving the Code of Practice and the preparations for final submission.


GDPR - Data Collection


The Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR require institutions to inform their staff as to how data about them that are submitted to REF 2021 will be used.


The REF team will collect store and process all information submitted by HEIs in accordance with the Data protection Act 2018 and GDPR. Information will be submitted to the REF via a secure website.


HEIs will only be able to access their own institution’s data, except in the case of joint submissions where HEIs can grant access to other HEIs in the joint submission. Information will be processed for the purposes of conducting and evaluating the REF. Information may be shared with other organisations to facilitate this, and will be shared with panel members (comprising panel chairs, members, assessors, advisers, secretaries and observers) for the purpose of assessing submissions. Panel members are all bound by confidentiality and data security arrangements.


The REF team will extract and pass to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) the following data to enable verification: for each individual submitted as research-active in Category A, their Unit of Assessment, HESA staff identifier code, and date of birth.


The REF Team will use information from HEIs to monitor the diversity of staff selected for the REF. Parts of submissions will also be published on the internet.


These REF Data Collection Statements outline how your personal data will be used for REF2021.


REF 2021 Privacy Notices


Open Access and the REF


A major change for the next REF is the introduction of Open Access for certain outputs. Open Access policy states that, to be eligible for submission to the next REF, authors’ outputs must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection. The requirement applies only to journal articles and conference proceedings with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). It will not apply to monographs, book chapters, other long-form publications, working papers, creative or practice-based research outputs, or data. However, the University is promoting an act on acceptance policy for all outputs and staff are encouraged to ensure that all outputs are deposited to the University Worktribe repository within three months from acceptance.


Edinburgh Napier's policy on Open Access can be found here:


The REF2021 policy on Open Access is available here.


There are a number of exceptions to the various requirements that will be allowed by the policy. These exceptions cover circumstances where deposit was not possible, or where open access to deposited material could not be achieved within the policy requirements. These exceptions will allow institutions to achieve near-total compliance.


Valid exceptions are captured in paragraph 38 of the above policy. If you think one of the exceptions is applicable to your output, please discuss this with the Library in the first instance. In straightforward cases, the library staff will assign and record the appropriate exception. In more complex cases, the decision will be referred to your School Director of Research and/or the Dean of R&I.


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