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Parliament and the Research Excellence Framework

Parliament is aware of both the impact agenda and the Research Excellence Framework, and of what these mean for researchers working in UK Higher Education Institutions

Parliament features in 20% of impact case studies submitted for the 2014 REF exercise. Not only does research play an important role in supporting Parliamentarians to conduct their work, it is clear that engaging with Parliament is a way of having demonstrable research impact.

Parliament and REF 2021

The UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are keen to support academics to engage with their work. Since January 2018, colleagues from the UK legislatures have been working together to ensure that the four UK higher education funding bodies – the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council, the Department for the Economy, NI, and Research England – and REF panel members have a clear understanding of what impact means for Parliaments and Assemblies across the UK.

To inform the development of the REF 2021 assessment criteria and methods, we produced a briefing note providing an overview of research impact in legislatures. This briefing has been cited directly in the REF 2021 Panel Criteria and Working Methods.

Examples of parliamentary impact (in Annex A, pages 83 – 85):

  • Research is used by parliamentarians to develop proposals for new legislation through Private Members' Bills, or to assist scrutiny of legislation and inform amendments to other bills such as those introduced by government.
  • Research helps to highlight issues of concern to parliamentarians and contributes to new analysis of existing issues.
  • Research helps parliamentarians and staff to identify inquiry topics, shape the focus of inquiries, inform questioning of witnesses, and underpin recommendations.
  • Research equips parliamentarians, their staff, and legislative staff with new analytical or technical skills, or refreshes existing ones.

Further details of the range of policy impacts considered by REF 2021 Panels (in paragraph 303, page 54):

  • "The panels acknowledge that there may be impacts arising from research which take forms such as holding public or private bodies to account or subjecting proposed changes in society, public policy, business practices, and so on to public scrutiny. Such holding to account or public scrutiny may have had the effect of a proposed change not taking place; there may be circumstances in which this of itself is claimed as an impact. There may also be examples of research findings having been communicated to, but not necessarily acted upon, by the intended audience, but which nevertheless make a contribution to critical public debate around policy, social or business issues. The panels also recognise that research findings may generate critique or dissent, which itself leads to impact(s). For example, research may find that a government approach to a particular social, health, food-/ biosecurity or economic issue is not delivering its objectives, which leads to the approach being questioned or modified."  

Details of how parliamentary impact may be evidenced (in Annex A, pages 83 – 85):

  • Direct citations of research in parliamentary publications such as Hansard, committee reports, evidence submissions, or briefings.
  • Acknowledgements to researchers on webpages, in reports or briefings.
  • Quantitative indicators or statistics on the numbers of attendees or participants at a research event, or website analytics for online briefings.
  • Qualitative feedback from participants or attendees at research events.
  • Data to show close working relationships with Members or staff, for example, the number of meetings held, minutes from these meetings, membership of working groups, co-authoring of publications.
  • Testimonials from members, committees or officials, where available.
  • Analysis by third-party organisations of parliamentary proceedings or processes, for example studies of the passage of particular pieces of legislation.

We hope to continue working together with the UK higher education funding bodies on this and will update this page with further information and updates on our work with the 2021 REF exercise, as they become available.

Parliament and REF 2014

For more information on the 2014 REF impact case studies which mention substantive engagement with Parliament, read the blog piece by Dr Caroline Kenny from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology: 'The impact of academia on Parliament' (links to an external page).



Research Impact and Legislatures

The briefing was co-authored with the Devolved Administrations, and has fed into REF 2021 draft guidelines on submissions and panel criteria.

Briefing on Research Impact and Legislatures