The Hidden REF 5% Manifesto

By signing the 5% Manifesto, Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) 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.

Publications and books are vital, but they are not the only valuable output from research. The research community is fundamentally and inextricably reliant on a broad range of work and a diverse group of people, yet recognition for the success of this team is directed to an exclusive group who are named as authors of journal publications and books. This culture damages our ability to conduct research by not recognising many of the people who are vital to research.

By “Non-traditional outputs”, we refer to research outputs that are allowable by REF rules but are not traditionally submitted to REF audit.  This leads to a under-recognition of the value of such outputs to REF submissions for HEIs, and a prevailing sense that they are not competitive as part of a REF submission.

The proportion of outputs that are not related to publications or books has fallen from 6% in RAE 2008 to 2.4% in REF 2021. With so much funding and status dependent on the REF results, institutions have followed an ever more conservative approach to the exercise. They have focussed almost exclusively on something that, they believe, is the only output that is understood and valued in research. Yet data released by the REF suggests that non-traditional outputs perform just as well as traditional outputs in terms of the proportion awarded a 4* rating.

The focus on only publications and books in the REF is symptomatic of a research culture that overlooks many of the people who are vital to research. If we replace this with a culture that recognises everyone involved in the research process, we will create an environment that is both more equitable and more able to advance research by ensuring that the best talent is retained in academia.

View the signatories to the 5% Manifesto!

Sign the 5% Manifesto

If you would like very infrequent updates on our progress with the manifesto, please provide you email address.

View the signatories to the 5% Manifesto!

Background to the Manifesto

In REF2021, only 46 of the 157 HEI submissions achieved our manifesto target of 5% of non-traditional outputs. These HEIs were generally smaller than the sector average and more specialist, accounting for 9.5% of the volume of submissions. We urge the sector to learn from good practice at these smaller and more specialised institutions, to create cultures that celebrate all forms of research, and to commit to diversify the array of output types they submit to REF2028.

In addition to being submitted as part of a UoA submission, the new Contribution to Knowledge and Understanding criterion (formally Outputs) will also include a structured statement to enable HEIs to showcase the wide variety of research undertaken, including those outputs that may have been judged to be ’risky’ to submit, such as policy reports or patents.  This approach also aims to recognise contributions that enable the research of others within the disciplinary community outside the submitting HEI, including the production of datasets, software, and translations. This structured statement will make up at least 10% of the quality sub-profile for this assessment element.  

The decrease of the proportion of the Contribution to Knowledge and Understanding criterion to the overall assessment (from 65% in 2014 & 60% in 2021 to 50% in 2028), provides the grounds necessary for HEIs to ensure that non-traditional outputs are included in submissions through a rationalisation of risk to individual UoA and HEIs.

This greater recognition of the variety of contributions made to the UK research landscape echoes the objectives and values of the Hidden REF exercise. The Hidden REF maintains that sustainable research culture change comes through the decisions of individuals in coordination with their HEIs towards recognising and valuing the contributions that highlight the excellence of their research.  For this reason, by committing to this manifesto, HEIs enable their researchers the freedom to pursue the most appropriate avenues and audiences for disseminating their ideas and evidence beyond traditional outputs such as scholarly articles, conference presentations and books.