How Research England supports research excellence


How to achieve high-performing research

Analysis by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and RAND Europe found some common characteristics in submissions to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 that received high scores for research and impact.

They should help you understand and take strategic approaches to achieve high-performing research at your own organisation.

Key conditions for high-performing research


People are central to high performance, in particular recruiting and retaining the best people.

The analysis suggests that a certain staff mix is associated with high performance. These are staff who:

  • are research-trained (PhDs)
  • are senior (professors)
  • have international experience
  • have salaries that are funded by external sources

Research culture, underlying values and leadership

Research culture, values and leadership are vital to the high-performing research unit.

The analysis shows that high-performance research units have a degree of earned or accountable autonomy. They are able to get on with what they are doing. They are successful due to their strong leadership and the research culture of the unit.

Enabling characteristics for high-performing research

There are three enabling characteristics that allow people and leadership to thrive:

  • collaboration and networks
  • a coherent strategy and diverse funding sources
  • supporting institutional and departmental practices


Last updated: 8 March 2024

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