‘Inside looking out... outside looking back’: post-REF 2014personal reflections

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In December 2014, the long-awaited REF2014 resultswere published by HEFCE and I felt like I was watchinganother demonstration of ‘switching on the Christmaslights’ only this time it was not a small local event, insteadit was a major national event with illumination on researchexcellence across the whole of the UK providing insight oninstitutional research power that ranged in quality, strengthand impact.HEFCE reported that ‘30% of our research was worldleading (rated 4*), 46% was internationally excellent (3*),20% recognised internationally (2*) and 3% recognisednationally at 1*. Academic staff, totalling 52,061 across theUK, submitted 191,150 research outputs and of these, 6975were the new impact case studies’.The ‘excellence’ of our UK research had been appraisedand now the response from the press, public and researcherswould be unwrapped and their delight, disappointment anduncertainty would be revealed.I was not surprised to read about the accusations of gameplay, threshold setting, fierce staff selection procedures andpotential loss of innovation; finger-pointing straight at theresearch institutions. In January this year, in keeping withthe post-Christmas spirit, the emphasis quickly focusedon the financial impact and the discussions on potentialfunding models for QR distribution. However, this hasnot yet been revealed and speculation will continue untilHEFCE finally publish their decision.As a member of the REF 2014 panel for Nursing(including Midwifery), Allied Health Professions, Pharmacyand Dentistry, I reflected on my experience as a memberof the decision making panel and felt comfortable withthe process and outcome of the work that I had beeninvolved in.It was the calibration exercises for each aspect of theevaluation process, the double blind peer reviewing ofpapers, the triple reviews for case studies with consumerinvolvement and the audit trail created where evidence ofthe justification for the decision making in complex casescould be archived that led to me feeling this internal senseof coherence and stability amidst a raging public,professional and academic discourse of capitalism, elitismand game playing.When I was on the inside of the processes of REF, my goalwas primarily to do the business with rigour, accountabilityand justice. This was not without challenges and occasionalarguments but the judiciary approach of seeking thirdparty review and panel discussion when necessary toreach arbitration provided the necessary transparency androbustness, satisfying my personal conscience.As a researcher with subject expertise in midwifery, I gaineda breadth of understanding about the overall UK profileof midwifery research including insight into the range ofmethodologies being used, outcome studies on effectivenessof interventions, qualitative studies on women’s pregnancy,birth and early motherhood experiences including impactcase studies demonstrating how midwives had contributedto the institutional profiles across the UK.The sub-panels will assess the ‘reach and significance’of impacts on the economy, society and/or culture thatwere underpinned by excellent research conducted in thesubmitted unit, as well as the submitted unit’s approach toenabling impact from its research (REF, 2011) These newimpact cases studies contributed to 20% of the overall scoreand it is here that midwives have the greatest potential toplan ahead for greater success in the next REF 2020.On a very personal note, I did try to have midwifery inthe title of our panel, however, it was not possible on thisoccasion, but the request was recorded.For the future REF exercises, midwives need to be morevisible as researchers with more publications, more impactcase studies and more people submitted. If we can focuson achieving these goals for the next REF we will havemore substance and evidence to substantiate our requestfor recognition and representation on the requisite panelhaving earned the honour of having our name on the panel.Our challenge is to undertake top quality research usingappropriate methodologies and to make the disseminationof this research accessible, easily understood andcontextually relevant.Speaking as your editor of Evidence based midwifery, Iwas delighted to see several of our high quality researchpapers included in the REF 2014 and this is importantto share with you, because HECFE made it clear that wewere to focus on the quality of the papers submitted andnot the impact factor of the journal. This is important forour readership to note as we strive to achieve our impactfactor this year. Citations were used to aid decision makingonly, but they may have a bigger part to play in the nextassessment exercise so it is important to keep this in mind.I cannot emphasise how proud I am to see midwifery’scontribution being recognised by the respective institutions,so many midwives being submitted to REF2014 and papersfrom Evidence Based Midwifery being submitted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3
JournalEvidence Based Midwifery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Mar 2015


  • REF2014
  • personal reflection
  • evidence based midwifery


Dive into the research topics of '‘Inside looking out... outside looking back’: post-REF 2014personal reflections'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this