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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a peer review process to assess the quality of research activity at eligible UK Higher Education Institutions. Performance in the REF will drive HEFCE quality-related research (QR) funding from 2015-16. Research activity from participating institutions will be reviewed across 36 Units of Assessment (UOA) such as Law, Modern Languages and Clinical Medicine. UOA panels will comprise experts in each field, and will assign a ‘quality profile’ to submissions.

Submissions are comprised of three elements:

Outputs: The panels will assess the quality of submitted research outputs in terms of their ‘originality, significance and rigour’, with reference to international research quality standards. This element will carry a weighting of 65 per cent.

Impact: The sub-panels will assess the ‘reach and significance’ of impacts on the economy, society and/or culture that were underpinned by excellent research conducted in the submitted unit, as well as the submitted unit’s approach to enabling impact from its research. This element will carry a weighting of 20 per cent.

Environment: The sub-panels will assess the research environment in terms of its ‘vitality and sustainability’, including its contribution to the vitality and sustainability of the wider discipline or research base. This element will carry a weighting of 15 per cent.

Institutional support

The University of Oxford’s REF 2014 return was supervised by the University Research Committee, chaired by the PVC for Research. Senior academic coordinators for each Unit (responsible for all aspects of the return) and Divisional Officers played a key role in the production of each UOA's submission. Submission preparation was overseen by the University’s Planning and Resource Allocation Section (PRAS).

Departmental contribution

The Nuffield Department of Medicine’s return sat broadly within UOA1 Clinical Medicine, this submission was coordinated by NDM’s Professor Richard Cornall, who also played a major role in the coordination of the entire Medical Sciences Division return, along with Divisional Officer Tertia Softley. NDM Strategic also made a significant contribution to the production and administration of impact case studies by employing a full time Research Impact Writer.

Submission and assessment

After three years of preparation the University of Oxford submitted its REF2014 return in November 2013. REF panels assessed the submissions throughout 2014, and outcomes were announced in December 2014. Submissions, panel overview reports and sub-profiles were published in Spring 2015.