Impact and the REF

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014

refAbout REF2014

The rules for impact case studies

Impact case studies from your department (redacted versions):

Read your department’s REF impact statement (REF3a)

Read examples of impact case studies from other universities

About REF 2014

Each Unit of Assessment was required to submit an impact statement (REF3a) – a three or four page A4 document which outlined the unit’s approach to enabling impact.  Additionally, each Unit of Assessment was required to submit 2-7 impact case studies, depending on the number of academics submitted in the Research Outputs section.

In total, the University submitted 25 impact statements and 90 impact case studies. Our statements and case studies are available for internal viewing (see college links above, please do not share these outside the University).

Each impact case study tells the story of how university research made an impact on society and describes what that impact was. They included a summary of the impact, a narrative description of the underpinning research, a list of underpinning publications, a narrative description of the details of the impact  and a list containing evidence of the impact.

Impact case studies were assessed on the reach and significance of the impact and given a quality assessment U (little or no impact), 1* (recognised but modest impact), 2* (considerable impact), 3* (very considerable impact) or 4* (outstanding impact). Underpinning research had to be “excellent” (2* quality or above) and must have been conducted by University members of staff to be eligible. We will be informed of the results of the assessment exercise in December 2014.

The rules and guidelines for impact case studies for REF2014

We don't yet know how impact will be assessed in the next REF. It is very likely that impact will continue to be a measure – and that impact case studies will continue to be used to assess it. We will not decide which case studies to use in the next REF until a few months before submission, once the new guidance is issued. In the meantime, it may be useful to bear in mind the rules and guidelines which were used for REF2014.

For REF2014, an impact case study consisted of a maximum of four A4 pages of Arial 10pt split into five sections.

  1. Summary of the impact
  2. Summary of the underpinning research
  3. Research publications
  4. Details of the impact
  5. Sources to corroborate the impact

Eligibility rules

The impact claimed:

  • must be underpinned by research – the link between the research and the impact must be explained
  • must have occurred during the assessment period (for REF2014, these dates were January 1, 2008 to July 31 2013)
  • must have affected society and the economy

The research the impact is based on must:

  • be of 2* quality or above
  • have been conducted at the University of Leicester between specified dates (for REF2014 these dates were January 1 1993 to December 31 2013) – ownership of impact stays with the institution where the research was conducted and does not travel with individuals between institutions in the way that outputs do


  • Impacts on Higher Education research and academia did not count – the impact case study assessed impact on society and the economy
  • Impacts on students teaching or other activities within the submitting University were excluded.

1. A summary of the impact

  • Should be a summary of the impact – not the research.
  • An explanation of the real-world “problem” that the research has helped to solve, or the issue it has tackled, is a useful way to introduce the impact. What was the environment *before* the impact, what changed as a result of the research? Who benefited?
  • In this section, it is not necessary to describe the research methods, team, findings or funding.
  • Should introduce the subject area to an informed but non-specialist reader.

2. A summary of the underpinning research

This section should outline the key research insights or findings that underpinned the impact, and provide details of what research was undertaken, when, and by whom. References to specific research outputs that embody the research described in this section, and evidence of its quality, should be provided in the next section. Details of the following should be provided in this section:

  • The nature of the research insights or findings which relate to the impact claimed in the case study.
  • An outline of what the underpinning research produced by the submitted unit was (this may relate to one or more research outputs, projects or programmes).
  • Dates of when it was carried out.
  • Names of the key researchers and what positions they held at the institution at the time of the research (where researchers joined or left the HEI during this time, these dates must also be stated).
  • Any relevant key contextual information about this area of research.

3.  References to the research (indicative maximum of six references)

This section should provide references to key outputs from the research described in the previous section, and evidence about the quality of the research.

Include the following details for each cited output:

  • Author(s).
  • Title.
  • Year of publication.
  • Type of output and other relevant details required to identify the output (for example journal title and issue).
  • Details to enable the panel to gain access to the output, if required (for example, a DOI or URL), or stating that the output is listed in REF2 or can be supplied by the HEI on request.

All outputs cited in this section must be capable of being made available to panels. If they are not available in the public domain or listed in REF2, the HEI must be able to provide them if requested by the REF team.

Evidence of the quality of the research must also be provided in this section. Guidance on this will be provided in the panel criteria documents. Where panels request details of key research grants or end of grant reports, the following should be provided:

  • Who the grant was awarded to.
  • The grant title.
  • Sponsor.
  • Period of the grant (with dates).
  • Value of the grant.

4. Details of the impact (indicative maximum 750 words)

This section should provide a narrative, with supporting evidence, to explain:

  • How the research underpinned (made a distinct and material contribution to) the impact
  • The nature and extent of the impact.

The following should be provided:

  • A clear explanation of the process or means through which the research led to, underpinned or made a contribution to the impact (for example, how it was disseminated, how it came to influence users or beneficiaries, or how it came to be exploited, taken up or applied).
  • Where the submitted unit’s research was part of a wider body of research that contributed to the impact (for example, where there has been research collaboration with other institutions), the case study should specify the particular contribution of the submitted unit’s research and acknowledge other key research contributions.
  • Details of the beneficiaries – who or what community, constituency or organisation has benefitted, been affected or impacted on.
  • Details of the nature of the impact – how they have benefitted, been affected or impacted on.
  • Evidence or indicators of the extent of the impact described, as appropriate to the case being made.
  • Dates of when these impacts occurred.

5. Sources to corroborate the impact (indicative maximum of 10 references)

This section should list sources external to the University that could, if audited, provide corroboration of specific claims made in the case study. Sources provided in this section should not be a substitute for providing clear evidence of impact in section 4; the information in this section will be used for audit purposes only.

This section should list sufficient sources that could, if audited, corroborate key claims made about the impact of the unit’s research. These could include, as appropriate to the case study, the following external sources of corroboration (stating which claim each source provides corroboration for):

  • Reports, reviews, web links or other documented sources of information in the public domain.
  • Confidential reports or documents (if listed, these must be made available by the HEI if audited).
  • Individual users/beneficiaries who could be contacted by the REF team to corroborate claims*.
  • Factual statements already provided to the HEI by key users/beneficiaries, that corroborate specific claims made in the case study and that could be made available to the REF team by the HEI if audited*.

* Where the sources are individuals who could be contacted or have provided factual statements to the HEI, the submitted case study should state only the organisation (and, if appropriate, the position) of the individuals concerned, and which claim(s) they can corroborate. Their personal details (name, position, contact details) must be entered separately on the REF submission system and not on REF3b. Details of a maximum of five individuals may be entered for each case study; these data will not be published as part of the submission.

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