Future directions for public engagement in the REF

REF 2014

At the NCCPE, we have worked hard to inform the development of the REF, to try to ensure it encourages high quality public engagement with research. Many of you have contributed your ideas and expertise to help us think this through.

What’s happened so far?

In 2012 the NCCPE was invited by HEFCE to submit a discussion paper about assessing the impact of public engagement to inform the guidance for REF 2014.  We were pleased to see this advice informing the guidance provided by the Main Panels. In addition, in the run up to the REF we ran workshops to help people develop their case studies and impact templates.

Following the submission process we conducted a 'Lessons learned from the REF' workshop and once the case studies were published by HEFCE we spent many fascinating hours poring over the submissions. We have just launched a report that shares the key findings from that analysis and reflection – findings which we have tested iteratively with the sector through a variety of workshops and events over the last 18 months.

What’s next? - REF 2021

Now is a very timely moment to be publishing this report – given that we are in the middle of a consultation about the future of the REF, which includes a question about how the guidance around public engagement might be improved. The consultation builds on last year’s review of the REF by Lord Stern which recommended that public engagement to be more firmly incentivised and embedded in the next REF.

The consultation opens up a range of really important questions, including:

  • How might we broaden and deepen the framing of impact?
  • Should we extend the definition of what counts as underpinning research beyond outputs to include, for instance, bodies of work, networks and facilities / resources?
  • How might the guidance about public engagement be improved?
  • Should institutional case studies and environment templates be required?

Responding to the consultation

All of these questions provide a fantastic opportunity to articulate a compelling and robust rationale for how to better support excellent public engagement with research.  We have prepared a draft response that captures our initial thoughts – and we enjoyed discussing this with delegates at our ‘What next for Public Engagement and the REF’ event yesterday.

Please do share our draft response with colleagues and feedback your thoughts to us by March 10th, to inform our final submission: nccpe.enquiries@uwe.ac.uk.

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