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The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (now Research England), on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies, asked RAND Europe to (i) identify quantitative indicators used as evidence of impact in the case studies submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014; and (ii) develop guidance for how these indicators could be standardised for potential use in REF 2021.

Using a mixed-methods approach involving a blend of text mining and qualitative methods, we analysed the non-redacted impact case studies that were submitted by UK higher education institutions to REF 2014 in order to develop the guidance.

The report proposes guidance for two broad categories of standards. First, a 'style guide' is proposed containing general stylistic items that could be standardised in order to make quantitative indicators of impact — and specific formulations of them — more discoverable in general. Second, 'specific guidance' is presented which addresses more specific and commonly occurring quantitative indicators that have been used as evidence of impact in the REF 2014 case studies. Both sets of guidance presented in this report are intended to inform the development of the guidance and criteria for the preparation of impact case studies in REF 2021. A more standardised 'reporting structure' of quantitative impact indicators will increase the ease of conducting any post-REF analysis of the data. This would enable more detailed analyses of the data to demonstrate evidence of the impact of academic research in the UK to a broad range of stakeholders.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Using a 'style guide' to standardise quantitative indicators of impact

  • Chapter Three

    Using 'specific guidance' to standardise quantitative indicators of impact

  • Chapter Four

    Concluding remarks

  • Appendix A

    Detailed methodology

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for Research England and conducted by RAND Europe.

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