Preparing your REF2021 ICS – Section 3. References to the research

List of underpinning research outputs

This includes the full range of output types listed in Guidance on Submissions Annex K. All forms of output cited will be considered equitably, with no one type of output being preferred over others.

You should provide:

  • A list of up to 6 research outputs with sufficient detail to enable the panels to access the work if required (see ‘Details required’ below).
  • A statement of research quality to enable to panel to determine that the two-star quality threshold has been met (see ‘Evidence of research quality’ below).
  • Cross-referencing between the narrative in Section 2. Underpinning research and the list of outputs in this section (see’Cross-referencing to Section 2 narrative’ below).

Details required

Details of each research output described in Section 2. Underpinning research should be listed in Section 3. References to research. Details required are:

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

NB: All outputs must be capable of being made available to panels either via URL or request to the institution to supply as required.

Evidence of research quality

Additional information should be provided to allow the panels to determine that the underpinning research meets the two-star threshold. This should be done in the form of a short caption at the end of the list of research outputs. Examples are provided below.

Approaches to determining whether the two-star threshold has been met differ slightly by which Main Panel your Unit of Assessment in returned to.


 For UOA03, UOA04, UOA05, UOA11 & UOA12
Main Panel A and Main Panel B request that submissions include additional indicators, as appropriate, of the quality of the underpinning research. Sub-panels will use the information provided in case studies, and may review the outputs in order to be assured that the quality threshold has been met (PCWM, para 319).

MPA & MPB exemplar statements of 2* quality from REF2014 

  • All of the outputs were reviewed in peer reviewed journals and all of the outputs received external funding. The importance of the work is demonstrated by the list of publications in peer reviewed journals and successful continued funding which has increased in value over time as the work has developed and received greater recognition in the field of xxxxxxxx.
  • All these references are for research that was carried out at the University of xx. All contributors were employed by the university of xx at the time of publication except for those in italics, who were commercial collaborators. All outputs were rigorously peer-reviewed prior to publication. Outputs 3 & 4 resulted from EPSRC funded research.
  • All articles were rigorously reviewed prior to publication in leading journals in the field.


For UOA13, UOA17, UOA20, UOA23, UOA24, UOA27, UOA28, UOA32 & UOA34
Main Panel C and Main Panel D state that submitting institutions should ensure case studies fulfils the threshold criteria for quality and do not expect to read underpinning research as a matter of course.  The preference of Main Panel C and Main Panel D is that submitting institutions provide indicators of the research quality (paras 320-322), such as (and not limited to):

  • Research outputs which have been through a rigorous peer-review process
  • Evidence of peer-reviewed funding
  • Reviews of outputs from authoritative sources
  • Prizes or awards made to individual research outputs cited in the underpinning research
  • Evidence that an output is a reference point for further research beyond the original institution.

If no indicators of quality are available, the sub-panel will review the item to satisfy themselves that it does reach the quality threshold (para 323).

MPC & MPD exemplar statements of 2* quality from REF2014 

  • These research papers have been assessed both through peer review and a large number of official government consultation processes, policy forums, Statistical Agency reviews and critical discussion with interest groups. These measures continue to be widely used and this is indicative of the confidence the UK has in the methodology, i.e. that it is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour or better.
  • All these publications were rigorously peer reviewed. The proposal for the Digital Edition was rated outstanding by the AHRC peer review board.
  • The references include both reports and academic journal articles. The have been accessed extensively by practitioners and used as a reference point. All reports were all reviewed by academic peers and key stakeholders / practitioners. Funding grants were awarded by [funding organisation] following a rigorous process of review by [funding organisation] staff and trustees.

Criteria and definitions of quality levels

Full details of the criteria for and definitions of quality levels are available for each main panel as follows:

Main Panel A – Panel Criteria and Working Methods paras 197-201

Main Panel B – Panel Criteria and Working Methods para 202a-e

Main Panel C – Panel Criteria and Working Methods para 203a-e

Main Panel D – Panel Criteria and Working Methods paras 204-205a-e

Cross-referencing to Section 2 narrative

Each output should be identified as R.1, R.2 etc and cross-referenced in the Section 2 narrative



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