the hidden REF

Celebrating all research outputs

If we do not recognise the people who are vital to research, we limit our ability to conduct research.

If you work in a vital-but-unrecognised role or you’re interested in supporting these people and building a better research environment, then you should join us in Bristol at the Festival of Hidden REF on 21st September 2023.

The next REF will now recognise all staff – not just academics – which is a huge step forward for research. To help Higher Education Institutes to embrace this change, we launched The 5% Manifesto by which they commit to submit at least 5% of their non-traditional research outputs to REF 2028. Individuals can also sign to show their support for the manifesto’s aim.

The hidden REF is a campaign to recognise all research outputs and every role that makes research possible. It began with a competition held in 2021 which showcased the diversity of research outputs in UK research, and the incredible people who work in hidden roles – from librarians to technicians, research software engineers to research administrators and managers – making vital-but-unrecognised contributions to research.

Our work has attracted a lot of interest from across the research community. This support, combined with the amazing work that we have been able to recognise, led us to convert our original plans for a one-off competition into an ongoing campaign to create a better research environment. This year, we are running the Festival of Hidden REF to bring together people who share our goals, and in 2024 we will run the next Hidden REF competition.

Find out more about the Hidden REF.

Hidden REF banner

Why do we need the hidden REF?

Research has changed. We rely on many people and many different skills to conduct research.

Recognition of research excellence has not kept pace with changes in research roles.

The hidden REF looks past traditional metrics to reward everyone who contributes to research.

There’s more to research than publications

In the 2021 REF


research outputs registered


of these outputs were based on publications

Only 2.4%

of outputs represented all contributions made to research other than publications

“Research isn’t an individual endeavour. It benefits from all the knowledge that came before it, and must pay its dues to the discoveries still to come.

Neil Chue Hong
Software Sustainability Institute

“Imaging is essential to driving life science research discoveries and requires significant support from many individuals, whose contributions often go unrecognised”

Maddy Parsons
Nikon Imaging Centre@King’s  

“Across the healthcare system, particularly in academia and NHS, data science roles are often classified as support and they are seen as back room staff.”

Georgina Moulton
Health Data Research – UK

“Technical staff make vital contributions to research and innovation, but historically, their input can often go unrecognised. Research is a team sport – it’s critical we recognise the diverse roles and skills that collectively enable excellence.”

Kelly Vere
Director, Technician Commitment

Copyright (c) 2023 the University of Southampton on behalf of the hidden REF