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A networking organisation for plants-related research and impact


The REF is a single assessment framework spanning all disciplines; each submission will be appraised by expert sub-panels, operating under the ambit of four main panels (classified as Panels A, B, C and D) for each of 36 Units of Assessment (“UOA”) defined in the REF.
The UOA range from clinical medicine to classics. Broadly Panel A covers health, Panel B, Sciences, Panel D, the Arts and Panel C a mixture of social science, law and architecture.  Panel’s A and C are most relevant to international development research. Panel C includes “anthropology and development studies” as one UOA while Panel A expressly refers to “international development” as a possible area of impact

The four higher education funding bodies will use the assessment outcomes to inform the selective allocation of their grant for research to the institutions which they fund, with effect from 2015-16.

Main elements of the REF Submission:

  1. Outcomes: details of publications and other assessable output (65%)
  2. Impact: impact template and case studies documents. (20%)
  3. Environment: research environment information.  (15%)


Impact Case Studies

Elements of Impact Case Study:
  1. Summary of the impact
  2. A description of the underpinning research
  3. References to the research
  4. Details of the impact
  5. Sources corroborating the impact

Reach is defined as ‘the spread or breadth of influence or effect on the relevant constituencies’

Significance is defined as ‘the intensity or the influence or effect’

Pathways to Impact (2 sides of A4)

1. Project Title [Brief summary of the main aim of the proposal; Continuation of Impact Summary: what will be done to ensure that potential beneficiaries have the opportunity to engage with this research?]

  • Impact Objectives [social, economic, scientific]

2. Project-specific impact activities 

  • Application and Exploitation 
  • Communications and Engagement 
  • Collaboration and co-production 
  • Capacity building [Training & Support for impact activities]

3. Impact activity timelines and milestones
[These should be linked to your research milestones; Gantt chart]

4. Summary of resource

RCUK Pathways to Impact Guidelines

Research Impact Review

'The nature, scale and beneficiaries of research impact: An initial analysis of Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 impact case studies' * report by King's College London captures an initial analysis of 6,679 impact case studies that were submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework

Key findings:

  • Underpinning research in over 80% of included studies was multidisciplinary and diverse
  • Different types of impact were identified in different disciplines
  • There is a diverse range of impact pathways
  • The impact case studies provide a rich resource for future analysis but there are limitations
  • The quantitative evidence supporting claims for impact was diverse and inconsistent, suggesting that the development of robust impact metrics is unlikely
  • The use of standardized lists of information and the definitions in the case studies would aid future analysis

The analysis project has also produced the REF impact case study database, a searchable tool enabling analysis and automated text mining of the case studies.

Further information including the pdf of the report and the data underlying the impact topics can be found on the hefce website.
Examples of Impact Case Studies featured in the Report:
  • Research showing the importance of same-day diagnostic tests for tuberculosis led to improvements in access to care and reductions in costs incurred by patients in Malawi, Nigeria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Nepal and elsewhere.
  • The development of a super-repellent surface, created by plasmachemical techniques and invented by UK researchers, is used in millions of products worldwide, including mobile phones and hearing aids.
  • Paralympic athletes’ performance was improved by investigating wheelchair propulsion and optimizing configurations for competitive sport.
  • Editorial and biographic analysis of the work of Virginia Woolf directly fed into the composition of Vanessa and Virginia (2008), a novel by Susan Sellars about Woolf’s relationship with her sister, Vanessa Bell 

Visual Aids
pathwaystoimpact inforgraphic2.jpg              pathwaystoimpact inforgraphic

*The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), on behalf of a steering group representing the UK Funding Bodies, Research Councils and the Wellcome Trust, commissioned Digital Science, working in conjunction with the Policy Institute and Digital Humanities at King’s College London, as well as Nature Publishing Group, to analyse the impact case studies submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The case studies outline changes and benefits to the UK economy, society, culture, public policy and services, health, the environment and quality of life and impacts in these sectors beyond the UK. Further information

Useful Tools


REF2014: impact case studies

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Symplectic Elements is the University's research information management system, and provides a closed environment within which Cambridge researchers can create a profile and share information. 
Symplectic Elements connects and collates information from a wide range of platforms, such as Altmetric and Dimensions, as well as data sources including Europe PubMed Central, Scopus, Web of Science and arXiv. 


ORCiD (Open Researcher and Contributor iD) is a free-to-use registry to provide researchers with unique persistent identifiers.


Altmetric for Institutions provides access to a range of alternative metrics by tracking the attention that scholarly articles and datasets receive online.


Researchfish is an online facility which aims to help research funders to track the impacts of their investments, and researchers to record the outcomes of their work. 


Research Professional is an online database of research funding opportunities and a source of international research policy and practice news.


Dimensions for Universities is a web-based tool, shortly to be integrated with Symplectic, helps universities and academics to analyse and understand the funding landscape