UCA's director of research discusses
the REF for THE

UCA’s director of research, Victoria Kelley has contributed to a discussion on this year’s REF 2021 in the The Times Higher Education (THE). Read an extract below.

16 May 2022

In Times Higher Education earlier this week, Ian Pace wrote that in university music departments, there is “a big question” about whether the kind of “research” that the Research Excellence Framework venerates “is really what their academics ought to be prioritising”, and he suggests specifically including “practice” within the REF’s purview. As director of research at an art and design specialist university, I agree with some, though not all, of what he says.

My university, too, has to wrestle with the relationship between practice-based research and the REF, and whether the influence of REF criteria on academics and their teaching is a benign or malign one.

The REF is not intrinsically hostile to practice research, as Pace notes. It is flexible and open, and to a greater extent than any previous UK research assessment, REF 2021 has fully accommodated diverse types of research output. For non-textual outputs, it has given more – and more useful – guidance on what should be submitted, and how. The “supporting contextual information” that is invited for certain output types has been better defined, in form and purpose. Administrative burden, however, is another issue. Assembling that supporting contextual information is infinitely more labour and time-intensive than entering the DOI of a journal paper.”

Professor Victoria Kelley writing for the THE.