How Research England supports research excellence

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REF Impact

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) was the first exercise to assess the impact of research outside of academia. Impact was defined as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’.

Impact case studies

As part of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise, UK higher education institutions (HEIs) submitted 6,975 impact case studies demonstrating the impact of their research on wider society.

These case studies provide a unique and invaluable source of information on the impact of UK research. UK higher education (HE) research has wide and varied benefits on the economy, society, culture, policy, health, the environment and quality of life — both within the UK and overseas.

Universities engage with a range of public, private and charitable organisations and local communities. Analysis found that these wider impacts and benefits often stem from multidisciplinary work.

Latest report: Patterns in research outputs

Publication patterns in research underpinning impact in REF2014 describes patterns in research outputs submitted by UK higher education institutions to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework and to previous Research Assessment Exercises (RAEs).

The REF impact case study database

The impact case study database is a searchable tool that will make the impact case studies widely available and will enable analysis and automated text mining.

The licence arrangements relating to the use of this database can be accessed on the National Archive.

An initial analysis of the REF impact case studies is captured in the report, The nature, scale and beneficiaries of research impact.

The REF impact case studies were analysed by Digital Science, a division of Macmillan Science and Education, working in conjunction with its sister company Nature Publishing Group and the policy institute at King’s College London. This analysis was co-funded by the UK Funding Bodies, Research Councils UK and Wellcome Trust.

Maps of impact case studies

The maps of impact case studies indicate the local and global spread of research impact for UK higher education institutions (HEIs) by impact type and research area.

They are based on the names of locations referenced in REF2014 impact case studies and categorised in the REF impact case study database.

Last updated: 31 March 2022

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