The way in which the REF exercise is conducted overlooks many of the people who are vital to the success of research.
Publications rarely name all of the people who make research possible, yet they were the basis for 97% of the outputs submitted to REF 2014. This is not the fault of the REF itself: the guidelines allow submission into a wide range of categories, from software to musical compositions. But with so much funding reliant on the results, universities are highly risk averse in what they will submit. Publications are well understood in academia, so they are almost the only output submitted to REF – and this means the work of many people goes unrecognised.
The hidden REF will celebrate all research outputs and recognise everyone who contributes to their creation. We will start with the categories of output used by the REF but, over the course of the next few months, we will ask the research community to suggest new categories that have previously been overlooked. If these new categories are popular, they will be adopted by the hidden REF.
Anyone who works in a UK research institution (e.g. universities and research laboratories) can submit to the hidden REF. Submissions are typically a 300 word summary of the output (more details will be released as we gain a better understanding of the output categories). The submissions will be judged by panels of experts drawn from the research community.
The hidden REF is challenging preconceptions about which roles are important in research – and this is no small task. Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can help. You can raise recognition of the hidden REF at your organisation and on social media. You can contribute to the campaign by volunteering to help or nominating yourself for a position on a panel. You can suggest a new submission category for outputs and you can, of course, submit an output.
It’s only by recognising everyone who is vital to the conduct of research that we will create an environment in which to advance it.