QMUL Statement of Confidentiality: REF Impact Case Studies
Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) is a leading research-intensive university, ranked fifth in the UK for the quality of our 3* and 4* research outputs (REF 2014). Our academics are part of a lively and supportive research community who work closely with industry, government, business, communities and charities. The outcomes of our research are felt around the world in both the dissemination of blue skies research, as well as in the real-world impact that our researchers have through partnerships with stakeholders external to the university.
Queen Mary University of London values its external partnerships without which there would be no research impact. Impact requires collaboration and trust and QMUL treats each partnership as an opportunity to co-develop research that will see real-world benefits outside of the academy.
As part of QMUL’s obligation as a publicly funded institution, it must not only uphold the highest standards in research and innovation, but also report on the work it does to the UK’s national assessment process, the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF is the system for assessing UK research in higher education institutions for the purpose of allocating future research funding, providing accountability for the spending of public funds, and to provide benchmarking information for the sector at large.
As part of the REF, QMUL is required to produce impact case studies from all three Faculties (School of Medicine and Dentistry, Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences). These impact case studies are five page briefs of the real-world benefit that has occurred as a result of QMUL’s excellent research underpinned by strong partnerships and collaborations. However, while QMUL uses these impact case studies to showcase the societal and economic benefits of its research, there is also a need to treat those case studies with commercial sensitivities as restricted, in terms of both who has access to them and what information is eventually published on the REF website.
REF has set out the following methods for assuring confidentiality of impact case studies:
- All panel members, assessors, observers, and the panel secretariat are bound by confidentiality arrangements;
- Universities can identify potential conflicts of interest when submitting and case studies will not be made available to those individuals;
- Universities can identify specific case studies that should not be published at all or should be redacted prior to publication due to their confidential nature;
- REF sub-panel chairs may identify specific panel members who will only have access to redacted versions if there is the potential of inappropriate exposure to intellectual property.
Along with these obligations on behalf of the REF, QMUL has taken the following actions to ensure confidentiality in the writing, pre-submission assessments (internal “mock REFs”), and eventual submission of impact case studies:
- To always work in tandem with its partners, ensuring that they are aware of what information is required and is being used as part of this assessment;
- To internally mark all commercially sensitive impact case studies, so as to limit access;
- To require all pre-submission assessors of impact case studies to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they are given access to impact case studies;
- To mark case studies where confidentiality is required for redaction (and omission from the REF website) before submission of the impact case study.
QMUL will never share commercially sensitive information with outside sources without the understanding and permission of its partners.
While the REF is a requirement for all higher education institutions in the UK, the opportunities presented by this assessment are not to be ignored. In its preparation of impact case studies and in the promotion of these impact case studies post REF submission, QMUL sees a host of benefits for all of the collaborators and partners that enabled the success of that submission:
- Preparing impact case studies provides an opportunity to revisit partnerships in order to maximise delivery;
- Sourcing information for impact case studies provides invaluable information for partners, meaning that they do not need to source the same information themselves;
- Writing up impact case studies provides partners with a narrative of research events that is useful in promotional materials;
- Promoting impact case studies drives interest in business and products from QMUL;
- Funding resulting from the submission of impact case studies feeds back into QMUL partnerships, so as to reinvest in and reinvigorate already established collaborations.
QMUL thanks you for your participation in this research assessment exercise. Without your contributions, QMUL would not enjoy its present position at the forefront of national and international research, leading to real-world social and economic benefits to a multitude of difference businesses, organisations, participants, communities, and nations.