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REF changes have an impact on staff wellbeing, says review

Image: Nick Youngson [CC BY-SA 3.0], via The Blue Diamond Gallery

Universities have been urged to consider how to create a positive environment after a survey of attitudes towards the Research Excellence Framework revealed a minority of academics felt concerned about the REF’s effects on researchers’ wellbeing.

Respondents to a Research England survey on attitudes to REF2021 in a pilot study for a real-time review of the assessment exercise showed that several university managers had noted concerns over the workload pressures arising from the REF and their impact on staff wellbeing, as well as pressure to game the system and diminishing morale among staff. However, most respondents said stress was more likely to reduce as a result of changes implemented after the REF2014, and as universities adapt to the demands of the framework.

The report is part of a feasibility study into a possible longitudinal review of participant attitudes to the REF, authored by a research team led by Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University and James Wilsdon of the University of Sheffield. The pilot study covered 8 units of assessment, involving 600 staff at Cardiff, Sheffield and the universities of Lincoln and Sussex.

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