Intended for healthcare professionals


The UK’s Research Excellence Framework 2014

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 21 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7797
  1. Graham Watt, professor
  1. 1Department of General Practice, Division of Community Based Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 9LX, UK
  1. gcmw1j{at}

A tool with many uses including, now, assessment of the usefulness of research

In 2014 the United Kingdom will conduct its seventh universities research assessment exercise in which it will assess, rank, and reward universities according to the excellence of their research between 2008 and 2013. As usual there are changes to previous processes, which include a new name (the Research Excellence Framework, or REF), an attempt to reduce costs, and an increased focus on the impact of research.1

As an exercise in accounting and rationing, the process enables the four higher education funding bodies in the UK to allocate nearly £2bn (€2.5bn; $3.2bn) of research funding—about 30% of all university research funding each year—on the basis of peer review of research outputs. The involvement of more than 140 of the UK’s most senior health researchers in six subpanels will lend legitimacy and authority to the task.

A researcher’s four best publications (described as “outputs”) during the period will be assessed for their originality, importance, and rigour. They will …

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