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Academic staff and the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

This section outlines to staff how, and with whom, the data collected as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 Exercise was shared, and what data protection and confidentiality principles applied. It constituted the fair processing notice (FPN), or data collection notice, for academic staff from the University of Reading who were involved in the REF2014. HEFCE guidance and criteria for the REF 2021 Exercise is due to be published in the spring of 2019, at which time the University will update its guidance on data protection and confidentiality principles relating to REF.

 

Staff fair processing notice (FPN) or data collection notice for REF2014

The purpose of the Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014) was to assess the quality of UK research and to inform the selective distribution of public funds for research by the four UK higher education funding bodies. The REF2014 was managed by the REF team, based at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies. Under this arrangement HEFCE had the role of data controller for personal data submitted by us, the University of Reading, to the REF.

If you are a researcher who was included as part of the University's submission to the REF2014, we will have sent some of the information we hold about you to HEFCE for the purpose of the REF2014. The information was not in coded form and your name and details such as your date of birth, research groups, and contract dates was provided along with details of your research. If you were submitted with individual circumstances that allowed a reduction in the number of outputs submitted, without penalty, some details of your personal circumstances were provided, as described in the University's REF2014 Disclosure of Individual Circumstances: Data confidentiality and security statement.

You can find further information about what data were collected on the REF2014 website in the section Assessment framework and guidance on submissions.

This rest of this section explains the following aspects of how HEFCE dealt with your information:

 

Sharing information about you

HEFCE may have passed your data, or parts of it, to any of the following organisations that needed it to inform the selective distribution of public funds for research and to carry out their statutory functions connected with funding higher education:

  • Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL)
  • Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW)
  • Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

Some of your data (Unit of Assessment, HESA staff identifier code and date of birth) was also be passed to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) to enable it to verify coded data returned to it as part of the University's HESA Staff Return. Data returned to the REF was linked to that held on the HESA staff record to allow HEFCE and the organisations listed above to conduct additional analysis into the REF and fulfil their statutory duties under the Equality Act 2010 (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Northern Ireland).

HEFCE and the organisations listed above used the information to analyse and monitor the REF2014. This may have resulted in information being released to other users including academic researchers or consultants (commissioned by the funding bodies), to carry out research or analysis, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Where information not previously published was released to third parties, where practicable will have been anonymised.

HEFCE required that anyone who has access to your data, held in HEFCE's records, paper or electronic, respected its confidentiality and will have only processed it in accordance with instructions issued for the purposes specified by HEFCE.

Parts of your data were passed to the REF expert panels and the Equalities and Diversity Advisory Panel (whose members are independent of HEFCE) for the purpose of conducting a systematic evaluation of submissions, in accordance with predetermined criteria and methods. Panels will have made judgments about the material contained in submissions and will have not formed quality judgments about individuals. All panel members were bound by confidentiality arrangements.

 

Publishing information about your part in our submission

The results of the assessment exercise were published by HEFCE in December 2014. The published results were not based on individual performance and did not identify individuals.

Those parts of submissions that contained factual data and textual information about research activity were also published by HEFCE and is available online. Published information includes your name, any research groups against which you are listed, and textual information including impact case studies in which you may be referenced. Personal and contractual details, including your date of birth and all information about individual staff circumstances have been removed.

HEFCE have redacted the names of any staff, listed outputs, impact case studies or textual parts of submissions that should be omitted from the published data where this is likely to cause harm to an individual or organization as permitted by HEFCE's guidance.

HEFCE have also published a list of the outputs submitted by the University in each unit of assessment (UOA).

 

Data about personal circumstances

For any staff submitted to the REF with a reduced number of outputs without penalty, the University was required to provide HEFCE with data on your individual circumstances, to show that the criteria were met for reducing the number of outputs. Please see the REF2014: Panel Criteria document (paragraphs 70-91) and the University's REF2014 Disclosure of Individual Circumstances: Data confidentiality and security statement for more detail about reductions in outputs and what information was submitted.

Submitted data will have been kept confidential to the REF team and the REF expert panel members (for clearly defined circumstances) and the REF team, the Equalities and Diversity Advisory Panel, and main panel chairs (for complex circumstances). All these bodies were subject to confidentiality arrangements. The University anonymised data on complex circumstances provided on the form REF1b.

The REF team destroyed the submitted data about individuals' circumstances on completion of the assessment phase.

As set out above, unless redacted, the information published by HEFCE includes a single list of all the outputs submitted by the University, and a separate list of all the staff in each submission. The list of outputs included standard bibliographic data (including the author name) for each output, but is not listed by author name.

 

Accessing your personal data

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 you have the right to see and receive a copy of any personal information that HEFCE holds about you. Further information about the Act and guidance on making a subject access request can be found on the HEFCE web-site in the section making a DPA request to HEFCE. If you have any concerns about your information being used for these purposes, please contact the Information Management and Policy Services (IMPS) Office.

 

Things to do now

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