What about the REF and the KEF?

What about the REF?

Research impact was first introduced as an assessment component of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). At that point, it accounted for 20 per cent of an institution’s overall score; by the time of the most recent REF in 2021 this had increased to 25 per cent.

REF impact is assessed primarily through the submission of short (five-page) impact case studies (ICSs) describing the demonstrable effects, changes or benefits arising from research conducted within the submitting institution. The research may date back up to 20 years but the impacts described should have been fully realized within the period since the last assessment.

There is, in addition, a requirement for REF submissions to include information about the "impact environment" in a department or centre, and across the institution.

You should not start an engagement project only because you hope it will generate a REF case study; nor should you avoid engagement just because you think it’s unlikely to lead to ‘REFable’ impact. However, if your project does generate tangible changes, effects or benefits for any non-academic constituency, anywhere in the world – whether these were planned from the outset or arose more serendipitously – do let us know. We can help you figure out whether you have a potential REF case study and, if so, provide support with writing that up and collecting the evidence you need.

Find out more about the REF at LSE and browse these examples of Impact Case Studies.

What about the KEF?

The UK Government has been moving toward a greater emphasis on knowledge exchange and impact for at least a decade. Plans for a new Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) were announced in October 2017, with results of its first iteration published in Spring 2021.

KEF is intended to track the full range of universities‘ KE activities and outcomes, including in categories such as public and community engagement, research commercialisation, and working with the business and third sectors.

KEF is primarily intended to demonstrate institutions’ key strengths and capabilities relating to KE, with universities being benchmarked against those with similar characteristics. Its focus on a full range of knowledge exchange and engagement activity differs significantly from REF impact which, at least in impact case studies, is much more narrowly focused on selective outcomes of that engagement.

The best ways in which you can help the School meet the anticipated KEF requirements are the same ways in which you can help us achieve our much broader strategic goals to maximize the accessibility and uptake of, engagement with, and broad societal benefits derived from our research.

  • Thinking about knowledge exchange and potential impact right at the start of your research project, and at every stage thereafter.
  • Talking to members of the KEI Integrated Service about the ways in which the School can help you to achieve your KEI goals.
  • Building in time and support for effectively monitoring and collecting evidence of the success of your projects.
  • Telling us about these! Share your success stories with your department or centre and with the KEI Integrated Service.