REF 2028: people, culture and environment

Top view of group sitting around a table with laptops and notes

The UK’s higher education funding bodies are inviting written comments on the assessment of people, culture and environment (PCE) in REF 2028.

This coincides with the launch of a tender for work to develop the indicators to be used in this assessment element.

The four funding bodies are:

  • Research England
  • Scottish Funding Council
  • Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
  • Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland

Initial decisions

As part of their initial decisions on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2028, the funding bodies announced their intention to increase focus on the assessment of the conditions that are an essential feature of research excellence.

To ensure robustness of this assessment, the funding bodies seek to develop a tightly-structured statement, which draws on outcomes-focused indicators.

While the assessment of PCE indicators is not covered in the formal consultation, informal discussions with the sector have identified the need for clearly-defined indicators. These indicators should be able to  be consistently and fairly applied and contextualised within institutional strategies and priorities.

As outlined in the initial decisions, a discrete piece of work is being commissioned to develop this assessment element.

Commissioning assessment

The funding bodies are seeking, via the Crown Commercial Framework, to engage a commercial partner to develop and test methodological approaches for assessing research culture and environment in REF 2028.

With co-production at its heart, this substantial piece of commissioned work will develop the PCE questionnaire and indicators in close collaboration with the sector.

The project will develop, test and iterate a set of quantitative and qualitative indicators of research culture, engaging widely with the sector. It will also provide advice to the panels during the criteria-setting phase of REF 2028.

A copy of the procurement specification will be made available on the Future Research Assessment Programme (FRAP) webpages.

A vibrant research system

Steven Hill, Chair of the REF 2028 Steering Group, said:

We are excited to launch the tender for this significant piece of work. The funding bodies are committed to developing these indicators in partnership with the sector.

That is why we are engaging now to shape the upcoming programme of work, which will commence in early 2024.

We want to make sure that PCE assessment in REF 2028 is robust, equitable and based on a shared vision for a healthy and vibrant research system.

Engagement activities

Ahead of the project launch, and to inform its development, the funding bodies will be convening roundtables and open web events through the autumn.

In parallel, they are inviting written comments on the challenges and opportunities of their proposed approach to be submitted by 1 December 2023.

Further details on providing written comments are available on the FRAP webpages. This is in addition to the formal consultation on the initial decisions, which closes on 6 October 2023.

Information on engagement activities will be publicised soon on the FRAP webpages.

Top image:  Credit: Jacob Ammentorp Lund, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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