FAQs – REF 2021

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) around websites, practice research, software and URLs relate to submissions to the REF 2021


Do we have to submit a 300-word supporting statement for a practice research output in Main Panel D?

The panel strongly recommends providing a 300-word statement in all cases where the role of the researcher, or the nature of the research process, is not evident within the submitted output. The purpose of this supporting statement is to provide succinct information about the research process and/or content, as advised in Annex B of the ‘Panel criteria and working methods’.

The 300-word statement should distinguish the output from contextual information (where provided) as described in para 265 of the ‘Panel criteria’. Institutions should ensure they submit only what is required for the sub-panel to understand and assess the research within the practice; and in many cases the output and the 300-word statement will suffice.

How might disruptions to the process of documentation of a practice research output be addressed?

Where disruptions have occurred to the process of documenting or testing a practice research output (e.g. cancelled or postponed performance or recording; disrupted prototype trials; sites and source materials made inaccessible by business closure or travel restrictions; collaborators unavailable), then an affected output statement (see Annex B of the ‘Guidance on revisions to REF 2021’) explaining the missing elements and their purpose may be included within the body of work submitted.

How may practice research outputs be effectively shared in cases where original dissemination plans were disrupted? 

As outlined in the ‘Guidance on revisions to REF 2021’, where plans for disseminating research have been disrupted (e.g. due to inaccessible sites; cancelled public exhibitions, performances or recordings; films or games not released; festivals or fairs suspended; etc.) the research should, where possible, be placed in a discoverable and searchable location such as an institutional repository. Where this not possible (e.g. for copyright reasons), ‘unpublished work’ may be submitted on a USB stick or similar or as a PDF upload to the submission system. In this instance, the optional statement (max. 100 words) may be provided to explain the form of the submitted output to the panels. Institutions will need to verify the eligibility of delayed outputs in the event of audit (see paragraphs 34, and 85-89 of the ‘Guidance on revisions to REF 2021’).

Can we submit documentation of a practice research output that is not in the public domain due to IP, copyright and privacy issues?

While the output itself must have been first brought into the public domain during the publication period, the representation of an output for assessment need not be in the public domain (for example, a set of images or materials in an archival collection, or a private recording of a live performance). Material not in the public domain can also be submitted as contextual information (see the ‘Panel criteria and working methods’, para 265, for the distinction between outputs and contextual information).

Can practice research outputs be submitted as URLs?

Annex K in the ‘Guidance on submissions’ specifies where a URL is an acceptable collection format for an output type. Where providing a URL, panellists will need to be able to access the output without the need for specialist software or the requirement for a login account. Access should preserve the anonymity of the reviewer.

How should practice research outputs presented as websites be submitted?

They may be submitted either as a URL/DOI provided directly in the submission system, or can be submitted as a ‘physical output’ in the form of digital files on a USB stick (or similar).

How may evidence be provided that an output presented as a website was effectively shared within the assessment period?

Where a website is the primary means by which an output is made publicly available, the output’s additional information field should indicate the date on which the website was placed in the public domain; institutions will need to be able to evidence this in the event of audit.

What would be considered good practice in submitting software outputs?

The UK Institute for Software Sustainability has published guidance on good practice, based on wide consultation within the software engineering community and with Sub-panel 11 (Computer Science and Informatics)  https://www.software.ac.uk/REF2021guidance.  This is supported by the sub-panels expecting to receive software outputs.

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