Professor Matt Flinders


The most obvious insight from Research England’s announcement of its ‘High Level Decisions’ is that REF2028 is likely to be very different to REF2021!

The ‘deep story’ that underlines the various changes to definitions, criteria and the scoring system is a desire to broaden the definition of ‘research excellence,’ and to capture a wider range of positive contributions in terms of both national research infrastructure and knowledge mobilisation.

This explains the shift in language and expectations. ‘Outputs’ are now redefined as ‘Contribution to Knowledge and Understanding,’ whereas what was the ‘Environment’ section has been reframed as ‘People, Culture and Environment’ with ‘Impact’ expanded to ‘Engagement and Impact.’ It also explains the shift in weightings with the ‘People, Culture and Environment’ element increasing in value from 15% in REF2021 to 25% in REF2028.


A big thank you to everyone who responded to our invitation to share their views. This allowed the PSA to share the perspectives of its members (and to also feedback from a recent meeting with PIR Heads of Department) to the REF2028 planning team.

You can read the PSA’s full response here: /sites/default/files/PSA%20REF2028%20Consultation%20Response.pdf


As was to be expected, our consultation uncovered a range of views. A significant section of our association is concerned about the basic reduction in the weighting for ‘Knowledge and Understanding’ (reduced in its new format from 60% to 50%) on the basis that this was primarily an exercise in scientific quality. At the same time, a very significant proportion of the association generally welcomed the more inclusive approach to defining research excellence and the refreshed emphasis on supporting positive research cultures.

Beneath this core finding, the PSA’s response to the REF2028 consultation focused on five main issues:

  1. The need to clarify the future link between REF2028 and QR funding, notably in the wake of the Nurse Review (March 2023).
  2. Embedded structural inequalities need to be recognised and addressed within future assessment processes.
  3. The changes to research volume measurement bring with them risks and opportunities that need to be carefully assessed and understood.
  4. The value of early clarity around panel appointments and detailed guidance on the component elements of REF2028.
  5. The need to refresh and rethink how to embed and support inter-disciplinarity within a discipline-based assessment framework.


The PSA is now engaging with Research England to help support and shape REF2028 and will keep you updated as the process and next steps become clearer.

The next stages of the REF2028 planning process will take two forms. First, a number of specific reviews and consultations will take place about specific topics (such as Open Access); secondly, the nominations process will be launched to recruit panel members (Panel 19 in our case)  with its first meeting expected to be during the Spring of 2024.

If you have any questions or suggestions on how the PSA can support you further in this area, please do not hesitate to contact PSA Lead Prof. Matt Flinders ( or PSA Chair Rose Gann