A step towards measuring the impact of research

Posted on November 11, 2010 by


The results of a series of pilots exploring how to assess the impact of research were published today. They were looking at how to capture the broad contribution that research makes to society to help inform decisions over what research we should be funding. They conclude the system is workable and now plan to use the information they’ve gathered to develop a working model that can eventually be rolled out and used in the new Research Excellence Framework for allocating research funding.


Quality-related funding (funding that research institutes get based on the quality and amount of their research) is currently allocated to higher education institutes across the UK by four higher education funding bodies (HEFCE in England, SFC in Scotland, HEFCW in Wales and through the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland). This is currently done on the basis of a Research Assessment Exercise of the quality of research in each institution conducted in 2008.

The Research Assessment Exercise is not going to be repeated. Instead, plans are afoot to replace it with the Research Excellence Framework (REF) – a new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The plan is for this new system to be up and running by 2014 to inform the funding allocations that will be made in 2015-16.

The Research Excellence Framework is planning to take account of the impact of research on society and the economy when deciding its quality. Because this is quite tricky to capture, the REF team have been piloting a model to see how this might work,

What now

The pilots have completed and the REF team have published a report concluding that they are workable.

HEFCE have welcomed this

What next

They will now refine the model before putting it into practice as part of the new Research Excellence Framework. In the business plans published by each department last week the proposed timeline for the Research Excellence Framework was:

  • A “way forward” on the Research Excellence Framework by March 2011
  • Allocation changed for quality-related research funding by July 2011
Posted in: Policy