In previous rounds of the REF, when it was known as the research assessment exercise, it was not possible for observers to measure precisely the proportion of staff submitted because accurate data on the total number of eligible staff was not available.
Many critics believe this has encouraged “game playing”, whereby some units of assessment have submitted only their top researchers in order to maximize their position in league tables.
Hesa’s publication of the “contextual data” - which it will do “within a week” of the announcement of the main REF results - will allow the compilers of league tables to introduce a weighting factor for the proportion of staff submitted, which would mark down those units of assessment that only submit a small proportion of their staff.
The agency will publish each individual unit of assessment’s numbers of staff, excluding research assistants, whose contracts stipulate a research role or teaching and research post, and are working at an institution for at least a fifth of a full-time role. They must also be active on the census date of 31 October.
Hesa will also calculate the number of full-time equivalent staff that are eligible for the REF. The results of the next REF will be announced in December 2014.