There will be no staff submission to REF 2028 and no single census date; instead, the staff volume (expressed as staff FTE) will be calculated as an average of the total staff FTE identified as meeting the criteria for eligible staff with significant responsibility for research within a given UOA over multiple years. Staff volume will determine the number of outputs and impact case studies required. From academic year 24/25, institutions that intend to make a submission to REF 2028 will be required to complete REF-related fields in the HESA staff return, including UOA assignment. The HESA staff return data in academic years 25/26 and 26/27 will determine the volume for REF 2028. The REF Funding Bodies’ staff eligibility criteria will be consistent with those for REF 2021, although submitting institutions may update their Code of Practice for determining who is an independent researcher and identifying staff with significant responsibility for research.
REF 2028 will fully break the link between individual staff members and submitted outputs. Outputs will not be attributed to staff and there will be no minimum or maximum number of outputs that can be associated with any staff member. The initial decisions publication states “Outputs will be considered eligible, where there is a demonstrable and substantive link to the submitting institution within the REF assessment period. This includes outputs produced by anyone employed by the institution on a minimum 0.2 FTE contract for at least 6 months in the REF assessment period.” Consultation responses are requested on appropriate indicators of a demonstrable and substantive link to the submitting institution. As in REF 2021, the number of outputs required will be 2.5 x staff volume FTE.
As a consequence of the removal of output attribution, no individual staff circumstances processes are proposed for REF 2028.
Additional narrative elements
The disciplinary-level statement contributes ca 30% in total to the overall assessment, and the institutional-level statement will also be separately assessed, contributing at least 5% to the overall assessment. Overall these changes increase the emphasis on research culture and support for people within the assessment.
Engagement and Impact assessment
Generally, fewer impact case studies will be required than was the case for REF 2021 (0-3 fewer impact case studies per submission), and the disciplinary-level statement on engagement and impact has an increased weighting within the assessment for small units with a volume less than 40 FTE, to the extent that for small units (<10 FTE) only one impact case study will be required, making up 50% of this element. It is proposed to remove the requirement for case studies to draw on underpinning research of at least 2* quality. The funding bodies will ask the panels to consider developing and operationalising an additional ‘rigour’ criterion, to reflect the importance of the process of engagement as well as the outcome.