REF 2028 – Impact

For the purposes of the REF, impact is defined as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.

For REF2028, impact will be assessed in terms of ‘rigour, reach and significance’.

There are questions that we continually need to ask ourselves: ‘what is the change I am seeking to make?’, ‘so what.. why should anyone care?’ and ‘what happened as a result?’ If we can clearly define and answer these for ourselves, we stand a better chance of defining it for others, and taking steps to truly understand our impact.

Early decisions made for REF 2028

The UK’s higher education funding bodies have made initial decisions on the high-level design of the next Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The next REF will conclude in 2028 and will assess research and impact between 2021 and 2027.

UKRI REF Impact Case Study databases

Guidance and resources from REF2021

An institutional-level environment statement, and a completed template describing the submitted unit’s research and impact environment, related to the period 1 August 2013 to 31 July 2020.

The following three distinct elements, along with associated weightings, were assessed for of each submission. The weightings were as follows:

  • Outputs – 60%
  • Impact – 25%
  • Environment – 15%

Impact case study template
Annex G – Case Study Template_final

The impact case study template (‘Annex G in the Guidance on submissions) included
additional, mandatory fields to collect contextual data. They were entered separately and were not routinely provided to panels. They did not count towards the page limit of 5 pages.

When presenting numeric data, submitting units were strongly encouraged to adhere to the guidelines set out in the ‘Guidelines for standardising quantitative indicators of impact within REF case studies’ (available at under Guidance).

Continued impact case studies (from the Panel criteria and working methods)

292. As set out in the ‘Guidance on submissions’ (paragraphs 314 to 317), case studies continued from examples submitted in 2014 were eligible for submission in REF 2021. All impact case studies submitted in REF 2021 must have met the same eligibility criteria, including the length of the window for underpinning research (1 January 2000 to 31 December 2020) and the assessment period (1 August 2013 to 31 July 2020) for the impact described. The main panels set out their expectations in relation to receiving continued case studies in the assessment (below).

293. The panels encouraged submitting units to submit their strongest case studies irrespective of whether they were new examples or represent continuing impact from those submitted in REF 2014. Main Panel A supplementary criteria – continued case studies

294. Main Panel A assessed each case study on merit and wished to receive information on how any continued case study relates to that submitted in REF 2014. Panel members had access to the REF 2014 database and could refer to this to understand the context of the 2021 case study.

295. Main Panels B, C and D. The sub-panels assessed each case study on merit and did not wish to receive information on how any continued case study relates to that submitted to REF 2014. If any such information was provided, the sub-panels did not take it into account during the assessment process.

Impact case studies that include confidential information

Arrangements were in place to enable institutions to submit case studies that include confidential information, with the agreement of the relevant organisation(s). Please see para. 307 in the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions.