GuildHE Research does not think that a lengthy postponement of the REF is necessary or a good idea. Many institutions are well into their preparations and a full delay is likely to impact future work. Small and specialist institutions, in particular, have invested significant time and energy into their research efforts over the last seven years using limited resources. A significant delay to REF would stretch those resources, and any subsequent uplifts in funding, at a time when the UK’s full spread of research excellence is needed more than ever.
This said, the current schedule for REF is not viable, particularly with regard to research environment and impact submissions. For example, many creative discipline outputs will be relying on exhibitions in currently closed museums, galleries and conferences as a way to prove their impact. Therefore, the timeline for submitting impact case studies should be extended beyond the current deadline. The timeline for submitting environment statements might also be extended, to take pressure off institutional research offices that are likely to be depleted over coming months. Researchers in small and specialists are also teachers who are having to rapidly develop and deliver online content at the same time as facing increased caring responsibilities so some flexibility around the outputs deadline may be needed.