One of the challenges during this pandemic has been keeping up with all the changes around REF 2021. On July 31st, Research England clarified the “new normal” for REF and below are the headlines based on previous consultations with the sector. 

First, nothing has changed with the census date for determining the eligibility of staff; still 31st July 2020.  Colleagues across the University are now establishing the eligibility of our staff and people will be updated soon. Thanks for your patience on this major task. 

There is a major change to the submission deadline. Instead of having to submit details of our staff, outputs, environment statements and impact case studies in November this year, the deadline is now 31 March 2021. So an extra four months to prepare ourselves.

The other big change is an extension to the window for Impact. Previously, Impact Case Studies (ICS) could describe impact between 1 August 2013 and 31 July 2020. This has now been extended to 31 December 2020, to give time for impact that was delayed by the pandemic to resume, and to ensure we have the option to include impact related to the pandemic.

A process has also been put into place for outputs that were scheduled to be published, produced, performed or otherwise made public before the deadline of 31 December 2020, but were delayed because of the pandemic.

What does all this mean for staff?

If anyone going into the REF has had any outputs delayed because of the pandemic, I would recommend they speak to their Unit Coordinator about whether that delayed output can still be included.

This is particularly the case for any colleagues who are going into the REF but who do not have any outputs that can be submitted because a planned output has been delayed by Covid-19. The process for declaring any personal circumstances that have impacted your ability to research productively over the REF period is still open [LINK] for everyone, but Research England have now added a new circumstance to recognise those whose ability to research has been impacted by the pandemic. If you think this might apply to you, please get in touch with your Unit Coordinator or with the University’s REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Team (

However, for most colleagues these changes will have no major impact. The main purpose of the new deadlines is to give the people involved in compiling the REF submissions enough time to get everything done. Our ICS authors and those writing our Environment Statements, for example, may need time to finish their writing after being delayed by other priorities during the pandemic.

So while the REF submission date may be delayed, the work as always, continues.  

Keep calm and carry on.