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REF2014 Disclosure of Individual Circumstances: Data confidentiality and security statement

A key equality tenet of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 and of the University's Code of Practice was that individuals with circumstances that had constrained their ability to produce four outputs or to work productively throughout the period (1 January 2008 to 31 October 2013) could be returned with fewer than the required four outputs. Relevant circumstances could include (but were not limited to): being an Early Career Researcher, part-time working in the period, maternity leave, illness or disability.

Between April 2012 and July 2013, all REF eligible staff were invited either to disclose circumstances or make a nil return if there were no relevant circumstances, either through the Employee Self Service, emailed electronic copy or hard copy.

Recognising that some information submitted could be sensitive, arrangements have been put in place to ensure confidential disclosure and processing.

 

Confidentiality and access to the data

With the exception of Early Career Researcher status, the nature and detail of any individuals' circumstances declared via these forms remained confidential to staff in HR and the Planning and Strategy Office responsible for processing the information. The information was not added to the individual's HR record, and was collected and processed only for the purposes of REF 2014.

Complex circumstances were considered by a Sub-Group of the REF Steering Group, with membership of the Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee, Senior HR Partner, and the Secretary to the REF Steering Group (from the Planning and Strategy Office). Further information required from individuals was obtained through the relevant Faculty HR partners, who then fed the information back to the Sub-Group.

The REF Steering Group (membership of Faculty Directors of Research, HR representative, the Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee, chaired by the PVC Research) were provided with anonymised summaries of the circumstances for endorsement.

Unit of Assessment leads were informed that the member of staff had disclosed circumstances and the number of outputs reduction that had been agreed. They were not provided with any details of the circumstances.

The funding bodies' REF team had arrangements in place to process the data provided by HEIs and ensure appropriate levels of confidentiality. Individual circumstances were reviewed by the REF Equality and Diversity Panel; sub panels will receive information about the output reduction. More detail can be accessed on the REF2014 website in the section Individual staff circumstances data.

The University followed the funding bodies' recommendations in ensuring that the submitted summaries did not include personal information that might compromise confidentiality.

 

Data security and retention

The data was required for audit purposes through to the end of the assessment phase (December 2014). Electronic and hard copies of the disclosures have been destroyed by the University as of the end of 2014. Suitably anonymised summary data will be retained by the University for equality monitoring purposes.

During the assessment phase electronic copies of disclosures were stored on the Planning and Strategy Office's drive and the HR Trent system, with access restricted to relevant staff.

Hard copies were kept in a locked cabinet in the Planning and Strategy Office in Whiteknights House. This office was locked when not in use.

Anonymised summaries were returned to the funding bodies through the REF submission system. Access to the system was restricted to individuals in the Planning and Strategy Office responsible for coordinating the submission.

 

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