Independent report

Data enhancement and analysis of the REF 2021: impact case studies

Study to understand the research impact of the UK higher education sector as represented by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 impact case studies.

Research England


Data enhancement and analysis of the REF 2021: impact case studies (PDF)

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The REF is a system for assessing the quality of research undertaken in UK higher education institutions and is a key aspect of the UK research landscape.

In both REF 2014 and REF 2021, impact case studies have been used to inform the assessment of the impact research has had beyond academia.

Impact case studies are short five-page documents detailing both the impact and the underpinning research.

This study aims to analyse the case studies and produce insights on:

  • the nature and beneficiaries of the research impact
  • the nature of the research underpinning those impacts
  • how the impact relates to areas of UK government priority

Where appropriate the study also analyses the differences between the REF impact case studies submitted in 2021, and those submitted in 2014.

It also explores the contribution of impact case studies underpinned by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding as a separate analysis for UKRI.

The work comprises of a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods including:

  • topic modelling
  • text searches
  • analysis of metadata associated with the impact case studies
  • bibliometric analysis
  • qualitative analysis of impact case studies content

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