The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a UK-wide assessment judging the quality of research conducted at all higher education institutes in the country. In 2014, 154 UK universities and over 52,000 academics were assessed, with 30% of the research submissions being judged as world-leading (4*), 46% internationally excellent (3*), 20% recognised internationally (2*) and 3% recognised nationally (1*). The next REF will likely be held in 2021. More information on the REF can be found at http://www.ref.ac.uk/.
The REF has a specific section for research impact, which it defines as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’. This highlights the importance of British research having a wider influence and the need for academics to engage with a variety of audiences, and conduct research that has a variety of impacts in society.