As we await the publication of further guidance for the forthcoming REF exercise, expected to be released by Research England over the summer, the University’s preparations continue in earnest.

There is much discussion in the sector about the Code of Practice, in which institutions must define those with “a significant responsibility for undertaking research”, and how this is being interpreted within institutions. Debate so far suggests a variety of approaches are being adopted, with universities taking Research England at their word that the process for identifying those in scope for a REF2021 submission should reflect different institutional processes.


tax-man-2789168_1920One of the possibilities suggested by Research England is to base selection on workload planning. This is the approach that the University of Portsmouth expects to adopt. Our REF Steering Committee is working towards determining inclusion in the REF submission by using a threshold of 20% FTE or above allocated to the “research” categories in the workload model.

However, it is clear that even within the institution, workload allocations are applied differently between disciplines and between Schools and Departments. The potential for a slightly more nuanced approach, to recognise these disciplinary and practice differences, is therefore also under discussion at the Steering Committee.

Our approach is therefore still subject to some degree of consideration, and will be further clarified once Research England’s REF2021 guidance on the Code of Practice is published.

Internal Audit

A REF Operations Group has been established, chaired by the new Deputy Director in Research and Innovation Services (RIS) and comprising the Associate Deans (Research) from each Faculty and members of the RIS Strategy and Policy team.

An internal REF audit will be undertaken over the next few months, following a similar process to last year’s audit, and adopting a census date of 31 July, to align with the REF2021 timetable. This audit will review progress on the three components of the REF – outputs, environment and impact – making use of external assessment in order that we can calibrate our own internal analysis of our entry.

You may already have been asked by your Associate Dean (Research), or your Head or Associate Head, to start selecting outputs to be considered for this audit. Your Unit Coordinator can provide more information if you have questions, or you can get in touch with the REF Team in RIS via

The review for environment and impact will not require the preparation of research environment statements or impact case studies. The audit process will review progress and reflect that work around these two components of the REF is still developing. The Impact Working Group will be leading on the impact element, while environment data will be gathered by the REF Team in RIS, in collaboration with the Associate Deans for each Faculty.

The outcomes from the audit process will help us review our progress and assess where we are and what more needs to be done. Results will be shared with the REF Steering Committee in November, which includes all Unit Coordinators, ADRs, the RIS REF Team, and other colleagues involved in our REF preparations.


Open Researcher and Contributor IDs (ORCID) are not expected to be mandated for REF2021, but they are “strongly encouraged” by Research England. We therefore intend to work towards 100% of academic staff having ORCIDs by REF2021, and expect everyone who is submitted to the internal audit to have an ORCID.

Unit Coordinators can help those within their Unit to ensure they have an ORCID set up, and that their ORCID is linked to Pure. Guidance is also available from the Library, and as part of the drop-in sessions run by the Pure team.

Open Access


Research England’s open access (OA) policy requires all journal and conference articles accepted for publication since 1 April 2016 to be uploaded into our our Research Information System, Pure.

Between April 2016 and March 2018 the final upload deadline was 3 months from publication. Since April 2018, Research England have imposed a stricter deadline of 3 months from acceptance.

We are doing well so far with meeting this OA policy, but it is vital that none of our outputs are excluded because of a failure to meet this requirement. Any staff with questions about OA can contact the Library team, who will be happy to help.



Beyond REF2021

It is also important to remember that REF is only one part of our research strategy. While we want to do all we can to make a strong submission to REF2021, those colleagues who are not submitting are just as important. Perhaps you’ll be submitting to REF in 2027, perhaps your focus is on innovation activity or research-led teaching. Whatever the case, the University wants to ensure we have a thriving research community that enables a breadth of activity and helps you achieve your research and innovation ambitions.

Over the next few weeks and months, there will be further communication around REF2021 and opportunities for colleagues to contribute and to ask questions.

Thank you all for your continued effort and excellence as we move towards our REF2021 submission.