Top-scoring impact case studies by REF 2014 UoA

Earlier in the year I set out a list of 4* REF2014 impact case studies to make it easy to find examples of good practice.

It’s a useful resource but there is a snag: 11 of the 36 UoAs have no obvious 4* impact case studies so it leaves something to be desired if (a) you’re looking for good examples in UoAs…

  • 7. Earth Systems & Environmental Sciences
  • 8. Chemistry
  • 9. Physics
  • 10. Mathematical Sciences
  • 11. Computer Science & Informatics
  • 12. Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering
  • 15. General Engineering
  • 19. Business & Management Studies
  • 21. Politics & International Studies
  • 31. Classics
  • 33. Theology and Religious Studies

… or (b) you want to look at a wider selection of high-scoring case studies than the limited view the 4* list gives you (for example, there’s only one case study for UoA34 on the 4* list).

That’s why I’ve put together a new list setting out the top 5 impact submissions in each UoA along with their scores. Now you can find high-scoring examples in any UoA.

As before, my starting point is that a browse of high-scoring REF2014 impact case studies can help authors articulate their own impact, get them over the tyranny of the blank page, provide inspiration around evidence and indicator types, and so on. Though things may have moved on in REF2021, the REF2014 database is still our best resource when it comes to writing REF impact case studies. The REF results did not attach scores directly to impact case studies so the easier it is for authors and impact geeks to find relevant high-scoring examples, the better.

Click on the UoA of interest below and you’ll uncover the top 5 impact submissions in that UoA with scores (out of a possible 4.00, obviously) and links to the REF2014 results site where you can access the impact case studies for each submission.

Note: for UoA 17 which unhelpfully combines Geography and Archaeology, I have split these into Geography-only and Archaeology-only top 5s.

Top five impact submissions by REF 2014 UoA

1. Clinical Medicine
2. Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care
3. Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
4. Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
5. Biological Sciences
6. Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science
7. Earth Systems & Environmental Sciences
8. Chemistry
9. Physics
10. Mathematical Sciences
11. Computer Science & Informatics
12. Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering
13. Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials
14. Civil and Construction Engineering
15. General Engineering
16. Architecture, Built Environment and Planning
17. Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
17. Archaeology only
17. Geography only
18. Economics and Econometrics
19. Business & Management Studies
20. Law
21. Politics & International Studies
22. Social Work and Social Policy
23. Sociology
24. Anthropology and Development Studies
25. Education
26. Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism
27. Area Studies
28. Modern Languages and Linguistics
29. English Language and Literature
30. History
31. Classics
32. Philosophy
33. Theology and Religious Studies
34. Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory
35. Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts
36. Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

Things to bear in mind

  1. The score for each submission includes the impact template as well as the impact case studies. This can throw up some odd-looking results, for example in UoA5, St Andrews is 2nd in the top 5 (with an overall impact score of 3.90 – including the impact template) but it also appears in the 4* list as the only UoA5 submission to get 4* for all impact case studies!
  2. Just because a submission has a score at the top end of the 3s, you can’t count on all the case studies therein being 3* and 4*. For example, Imperial’s UoA12 submission comes 2nd in class with a score of 3.69 which looks great. However, the impact profile (detailed breakdown of scores – available by clicking “view submission” in the breadcrumb trail of any of the linked REF submission pages) shows that one of the case studies in this submission scored 1.5… It just so happens that the average was buoyed by all 17 other case studies scoring 4*! It should be possible to spot the 1.5 among all the 4s but my point is you can’t always select a high-scoring submission and be sure everything is within it is high-scoring (a bit like journal impact factors…). This isn’t a common issue – I had to search for this example – but it does come up so check those impact profiles if you want to ensure everything is 3* and 4*. The impact profiles can be tricky to interpret – if in doubt ask a friendly REF person to help you decode them! Just to complete this story, all four other submissions in the UoA12 top 5 contained exclusively 3* and 4* case studies.

I hope this all makes sense and helps everyone find some good impact case study examples, whatever your area. Any issues, just leave a comment or get in touch!

2 thoughts on “Top-scoring impact case studies by REF 2014 UoA

  1. This is a really useful resource for those of us who need examples of good impact case studies. I know it would be rather shaming and perhaps difficult, but would a similar list of poor examples, along with reasons why the studies were generally uc or 1*, also be useful. I use some of these regularly when I’m training but it would be good to have a longer list.

    1. I think it is a good idea to look at lower scoring case studies for comparison. I have done this with groups but you’re right, it would be a different matter to put it out there to a wide audience… Personally I’d be uncomfortable doing this but I would be happy to help people identify sets of lower-scoring case studies for use in their own area.

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