REF impact

This page is for Oxford Brookes University staff. Its purpose is to explain internal processes to staff members. It was moved into its current location on the website in Autumn 2022.

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or the first time in 2014, the assessment of impact influenced how quality-related research funding was allocated as a result of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Impact accounted for 20 per cent of the overall quality assessment in 2014, and impact case studies will carry a weighting of 25 per cent in the REF 2021 exercise.

REF 2014 results showed that 65% of our impact case studies were assessed as either outstanding (4*) or very considerable (3*) in terms of their reach and significance. This indicates that we have a strong basis on which to build and develop our future impacts and the overall research quality profile of the University that, in turn, will increase our performance in any future research assessments.

What is a REF impact case study?

A REF Impact case study (ICS) is a narrative which describes how research, conducted during a specific time-frame at a named institution, resulted in a change, had an effect on or benefited culture, the economy, the environment, health, public policy, quality of life or society using qualitative and quantitative evidence. The impacts must have occurred during the REF census period.

For the purpose of the REF, impact includes, but is not limited to, an effect on, change or benefit to:

  • the activity, attitude, awareness, behaviour, capacity, opportunity, performance, policy, practice, process or understanding
  • of an audience, beneficiary, community, constituency, organisation or individuals
  • in any geographic location whether locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.

Impacts are assessed in terms of reach and significance:

  • Reach is understood as the extent and/or diversity of the beneficiaries of the impact, as relevant to the nature of the impact
  • Significance is understood as the degree to which the impact has enabled, enriched, influenced, informed or changed the performance, policies, practices, products, services, understanding, awareness or well-being of the beneficiaries.