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REF 2021 - Declaration of Individual Staff Circumstances

As part of the University’s commitment to supporting equality and diversity in REF, it has put in place safe and supportive structures for staff to declare information about any equality-related circumstances that may have affected their ability to research productively during the assessment period (1 January 2014 – 31 July 2020), and particularly their ability to produce research outputs at the same rate as staff not affected by circumstances.  The purpose of collecting this information is threefold:

  • To enable staff who have not been able to produce a REF-eligible output during the assessment period to be entered into REF where they have;
    • circumstances that have resulted in an overall period of 46 months or more absence from research during the assessment period, due to equality-related circumstances (see below)
    • circumstances equivalent to 46 months or more absence from research due to equality-related circumstances e.g. mental health issues, caring responsibility, long-term health conditions
    • two or more qualifying periods of family-related leave.
  • To recognise the effect that equality-related circumstances can have on an individual’s ability to research productively, and to adjust expectations in terms of expected workload / production of research outputs.
  • To establish whether there are any Units of Assessment where the proportion of declared circumstances is sufficiently high to warrant a request to Research England for a reduced required number of outputs to be submitted.

Applicable circumstances

  • Qualifying as an Early Career Researcher (started career as an independent researcher on or after 1 August 2016)
  • Absence from work due to secondments or career breaks outside the HE sector
  • Qualifying periods of family-related leave
  • Disability (including chronic conditions)
  • Ill heath, injury or mental health conditions
  • Constraints relating to family leave that fall outside of the standard allowances
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Gender reassignment

If your ability to research productively during the assessment period has been constrained due to one or more of the above circumstances, you are requested to complete the attached form. Further information can be found in paragraph 160 of the Guidance on Submissions (REF 2019/01). Completion and return of the form is voluntary, and individuals who do not choose to return it will not be put under any pressure to declare information if they do not wish to do so.  This form is the only means by which the University will be gathering this information; it will not be consulting HR records, contract start dates, etc.  You should therefore complete and return the form if any of the above circumstances apply and you are willing to provide the associated information.

Early Career Researchers (ECRs)

Early Career Researchers are defined as academic staff who started their career as an independent researcher, leading their own research as opposed to carrying our research directed by others, on or after 1 August 2016. This does not mean that ECRs will simply be those SRR and IR staff who have joined the University on or after 1 August 2016. It can also apply to staff who started employment with the University earlier but have only begun to lead their own research activities since 1 August 2019.

If you need help with deciding if you qualify as an ECR please have a discussion with your line manager, research group leader or Unit of Assessment coordinator who will be able to advise you.

Ensuring Confidentiality

The information provided on the disclosure forms will be seen by the members of the Individual Circumstances Panel (ICP) and by staff in Human Resources who process the data and papers. It will not be shared with Unit of Assessment Coordinators, Associate Deans Research and Enterprise staff, or the University REF Oversight Committee (REFOC).

If further information is required about any circumstances disclosed, your factual employment history may be referred to and/or you will be contacted by a HR representative.

The ICP will hold a closed meeting to review and consider applications for individual staff circumstances and will communicate its decisions to individuals by confidential e-mail ensuring that any reductions in the number of outputs are clearly communicated and confirming the expectations of them as an individual submitting outputs within their UOA. HR will pass details of this form to the relevant contact (usually your line manager) within your department to ensure that expectations can be adjusted and appropriate support put in place for you.

Although the expectations of individuals with staff circumstances will stand, the University is only expected to make requests for reductions to outputs at UOA level where the cumulative effect of circumstances has disproportionately affected the UOA’s output pool. This means that UOAs are in general expected to manage the overall submission of outputs within the average of 2.5 outputs per FTE, with some staff submitting more and others less, taking any individual circumstances into account.

In addition, in all UOAs, an individual may be returned without the required minimum of one output without penalty in the assessment, where the nature of the individual’s circumstances has an exceptional effect on their ability to work productively throughout the REF period, so that the staff member has not been able to produce the required minimum of one.

Members of REFOC, Associate Deans Research and Enterprise and UOA Coordinators will be made aware of any approved reductions to outputs that could be made to the UOA submission but will not know the reasons for the reduction.

If the University decides to apply to Research England for either form of reduction of outputs (removal of ‘minimum of one’ requirement or unit circumstances), it will need to provide UKRI with data that you have disclosed about your individual circumstances, to show that the criteria have been met for reducing the number of outputs. Please see the REF Guidance on Submissions (REF2019/01) (paragraphs 151-201) for more detail about reductions in outputs and what information needs to be submitted.

Submitted data will be kept confidential to the Research England REF team, the REF Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel, and main panel chairs. All these bodies are subject to confidentiality arrangements. The REF team will destroy the submitted data about individuals’ circumstances on completion of the assessment phase.

At the University, a copy of the information provided by staff will be held on their personal files in Human Resources.  All other copies will be destroyed after the REF process is completed in line with REF Data Protection processes.

Declaration Form

REF 2021 – Individual Circumstances Declaration Form

The deadline for declarations to be submitted to Ruth Sivori, Head of Human Resources, is 29 May 2020.

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