Preparing your REF2021 ICS – Section B 2. Underpinning research

Underpinning research narrative

This narrative section enables the panel to determine eligibility for assessment as well as providing essential context for the impact. 

‘To be eligible for assessment, the impact described in the case study must be underpinned by excellent research produced at the submitting HEI during the period 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2020′.

Whilst the underpinning research does not contribute to your overall quality star-rating for impact, it is vital to ensure these thresholds are met to avoid an unclassified score.

Key definitions

‘Excellent research’ means that the quality of the research is at least equivalent to two-star: ‘quality that is recognised internationally in terms of significance, originality and rigour’.

Please note it is not expected that each underpinning research output should meet the quality threshold, but that the body of research as a whole contains outputs of at least two-star quality. 

‘Underpinned by’ means that the research made a distinct and material contribution to the impact take place, such that the impact would not have occurred or would have been significantly reduced without the contribution of that research.

What to include

This narrative section should address the research that relates to the impacts that are described in Section 4. This may be the work of one or more individuals, a body of work produced over years, or the outputs from a particular research project.

It is important, particularly for case studies resulting from contract research, that the high-quality academic research outputs are understood in terms of their significance, originality and rigour.

You should include:

  • details of what research was undertaken, when and by whom (for collaborative projects make clear the SHU author contribution to the research)
  • description of the nature of the key research insights or findings that underpinned the impact
  • provide any relevant key contextual information about this area of research, this might include:
      • What was the challenge that the research addressed?
      • Why was the research needed?
      • What was investigated?
      • What methods were used?
      • What was novel or innovative in the project?

Presentation in this section

Using a brief name or description for each strand of research can be helpful to use as sub-heading and to refer to throughout. 

Remember to cross-reference the text with the outputs listed in Section 3. References to research eg. R1, R2 etc 

If the research was funded by a prestigious grant or funder, you may want to mention it here – but only if it adds weight to the ICS.


Return to REF2021 ICS Contents.