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Department of Oncology

 

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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the current system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, having replaced the Research Assessment Exercise. To date, one RAE (2008) and two REF assessments have been conducted (2014 & 2021).

This section provides information about the quality of the Department of Oncology's research compared with other UK education instutions:


2021 Research Excellence Framework 

The 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) was a major exercise to assess the quality of research at UK universities. The exercise included submissions from 157 UK higher education institutions (HEIs) in 34 subject-based units of assessment (UOAs). These submissions were assessed by panels of experts, who produced an overall quality profile for each submission. Each overall quality profile shows the proportion of research activity judged by the panels to have met each of the four starred quality levels in steps of 1%. Learn more about the REF results

Professor Richard Gilbertson successfully led the massive undertaking of co-ordinating the University of Cambridge Unit of Assessment 1 (UoA1)- Clinical Medicine, under which the Department of Oncology's research was submitted; he is delighted to report that the UoA1 scored incredibly well in all subdomains:

UoA1 results:

Number of FTE Category A research staff returned: 363

 

4*

3*

2*

1*

U/C

Overall

70.0%

25.0%

4.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Outputs

58.4%

33.9%

6.2%

0.0%

0.0%

Impact

89.3%

10.7%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Environment

87.5%

12.5%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

A more detailed breakdown of the UoA1 results can be found here: https://results2021.ref.ac.uk/profiles/units-of-assessment/1

Explanation of the 3 assessment categories and star ratings system used to derive overall quality scores: 

1. Outputs (60% of overall result)
Outputs are the published or publicly available products of research, which can take many forms. These include books, monographs, chapters in books and journal articles as well as performances, exhibitions and other practice research outputs, software, patents, conference proceedings, translations, and digital and visual media. 

Outputs account for 60% of the overall outcome awarded to each submission and are assessed against three criteria: originality, significance, and rigour. 

The number of outputs each submitting unit had to submit was equal to 2.5 times the FTE of its submitted staff. Each staff member had to have at least one and no more than five outputs attributed to them in the submission. For REF 2021, to meet their total number of required outputs for submission, HEIs could also submit outputs produced by former staff who had left the institution, providing the output had been made publicly available while that former staff member was employed on an eligible basis by the submitting HEI. 

2. Impact (25% of overall result)
For REF 2021, impact is defined as the effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.  

HEIs were required to submit impact case studies that demonstrate the impacts their research has had beyond academia. The number of impact case studies each submitting unit was required to submit was based on the FTE of the submitted staff within that unit, with a minimum of two impact case studies being required for the smallest units. A total of 6,781 impact case studies were submitted to REF 2021. 

Impact accounts for 25% of the overall outcome awarded to each submission. Impact case studies were assessed against two criteria: reach and significance.

3. Environment (15% of overall result)
For REF 2021, ‘environment’ means the environment for supporting research and enabling impact within each submitting unit. Environment accounts for 15% of the overall outcome awarded to each submission and is assessed against two criteria: vitality and sustainability. 

HEIs were required to submit narrative evidence of the environment to support research and enable impact within each unit, alongside data on research income, research income in kind, and completed doctoral degrees. The maximum length of the narrative statement that each submitting unit provided was determined by the FTE of the submitted staff within that unit. 

HEIs were also required to submit an institutional level environment statement as part of a pilot of the assessment of institutional environment. These institutional level narratives were used by the sub-panels to inform and contextualise their assessment, but were not scored as part of the REF 2021 sub-profiles. A standalone assessment of institutional environment statements is being separately piloted by the Institutional Level Environment Pilot Panel. 

Click here to learn more about how the quality of each of the 3 elements was graded based on a star rating system.

Information about the University of Cambridge REF results as a whole can be found here.

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2014 Research Excellence Framework 

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise was a major undertaking to assess the quality of research at UK universities.

The exercise was managed by the REF team, based at HEFCE, on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies - Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL) -  and was overseen by the REF Steering Group, consisting of representatives of the four funding bodies.

The primary purpose of REF 2014 was to assess the quality of research and produce outcomes for each submission made by institutions:

  • The four higher education funding bodies will use the assessment outcomes to inform the selective allocation of their grant for research to the institutions which they fund, with effect from 2015-16.
  • The assessment provides accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment.
  • The assessment outcomes provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use within the higher education (HE) sector and for public information.

The REF used the following 3 assessment categories to derive overall quality scores:

Outputs/publications (65% of overall result):
‘Outputs’ are the product of any form of research, published between January 2008 and December 2013. They include publications such as journal articles, monographs and chapters in books, as well as outputs disseminated in other ways such as designs, performances and exhibitions.

Impact case studies (20% of overall result):
‘Impact’ is any effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.
Environment (15% of overall result):
‘Environment’ refers to the strategy, resources and infrastructure that support research.

The quality of each element was graded, on average:

  • world-leading (4*)
  • internationally excellent (3*)
  • recognised internationally (2*)
  • recognised nationally (1*)

The Department of Oncology was submitted as part of the University of Cambridge’s Unit of Assessment 1: Clinical Medicine, along with the Departments of Clinical Biochemistry, CRUK Cambridge Institute, Haematology, Medicine, Medical Genetics, MRC Cancer Unit, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Pathology, Paediatrics, Radiology and Surgery. Our Unit of Assessment returned 192.05 FTE Category A staff and our results were:

% of the submission meeting the standard for:

 

4*

3*

2*

1*

U/C

Overall

58.0%

29.0%

12.0%

0.0%

1.0%

Outputs

39.4%

45.0%

13.7%

0.6%

1.3%

Impact

86.0%

2.0%

12.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Environment

100.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

The research of 154 UK Universities was assessed. To see how we compared with other Universities/Institutions within our category see: http://results.ref.ac.uk/Results/ByUoa/1

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2008 Research Assessment Exercise

In the Research Assessment Exercise 2008, the Department staff featured in the University of Cambridge submission to the ''Cancer Studies Theme of Assessment', along with the University's Department of Pathology. The result of this assessment was that 35% of the profile of our submissions was awarded a 4* grading (world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour) and 45% was awarded a 3* grading (internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour). We were also ranked second in the Times Higher Education analysis of profiles submitted to the 'Cancer Studies Theme of Assessment'.

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