The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the national quality assessment process to measure research in UK universities. The assessment is reviewed every six years, the next is expected to take place in 2020. The REF results determine how much research funding is allocated to UK institutions and is key to ranking research quality in Universities. This makes the REF an important source of income and status for Staffordshire University, so it is vital to prepare well for each submission.
Nachi Chockalingam recently led a seminar to discuss what staff at the University need to enhance their submissions on the next REF. The session included Professor Ian Kitchen from the University of Surrey. University of Surreys 2014 REF ranking of 36 makes them an interesting institution to learn from. Professor Dave Billington from Liverpool John Moores, was also present. Liverpool John Moores also had a highly successful 2014 REF rank of 62, meaning there were interesting lessons to learn from both institutions. Below is a summary of the points discussed.
The percentage of time devoted to research was looked at. Current allocation of time equates to ½ a day per week. It was felt this is insufficient to produce four outputs at 3* rating over 6 years. Ian Kitchen and Dave Billington shared this view. It was felt that it should be at least 1 day per week. There was a preference for staff to have flexibility in using research time, with some individuals wanting blocks of time rather than ring-fenced weekly time.
In terms of support needed to improve research quality, the advent of the Graduate School was viewed very positively. A need was identified for a better strategy to be delivered at institutional level. Suggestions included investment in staff completing PhDs, sabbaticals, networking opportunities, teaching only contracts, reducing the internal hurdles to make external grant applications and mentoring.
The importance of research to personal career aspirations was discussed. Staff identified that they had a passion for their work, research could assist with promotion, inform teaching and provide personal job satisfaction. It was noted that research is what professors do.
Anyone interested in further information should contact Richard Gorton, Research, Policy & Governance Manager