REF2021 staff circumstances

Lancaster University and the UK funding bodies are committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity in all research careers. As part of this commitment, additional measures have been put in place for REF2021 to recognise the effect that individuals’ circumstances may have on research productivity.

There are safe and supportive structures for Lancaster staff to voluntarily declare information about any equality-related circumstances that may have affected their ability to produce research outputs during the REF2021 period.

The purpose of collecting this information is threefold:

  • To enable staff who have not been able to produce a REF-eligible output during the assessment period to be entered into REF2021 without the minimum of one output where they have a qualifying circumstance (see below)
  • To recognise the effect that equality-related circumstances can have on an individual’s ability to research productively, and to adjust expectations in terms of expected production of research outputs.
  • To establish whether there are any Units of Assessment (UoA) where the proportion of declared circumstances is sufficiently high to warrant a request to Research England for a reduction on the number of outputs to be submitted for the UoA.

Potential output reductions

As part of REF2021, each UoA is required to submit a specific number of outputs based on their size. Within each UoA submission, current eligible staff must have at least one output allocated to them, up to a maximum of five. In addition to this flexibility, eligible staff circumstances declarations can be used to reduce the number of outputs required. This is to recognise the effect that the circumstances have had on research productivity of the individual or the UoA.

Remove the minimum of one requirement

The requirement to be submitted with a minimum of one outputs can be waived where an individual has had either:

  1. An overall period of (or circumstances equivalent to) 46 months or more absence from research within the period 1 January 2014 to 31 July 2020; OR
  2. Two or more qualifying periods of family-related leave; OR
  3. Where a significantly reduced FTE equates to an overall period of 46 months or more absent from research within the period 1 January 2014 to 31 July 2020


  • Not produced an output within the period 1 January 2014 to 31 July 2020

Unit reductions

The university has made cases to Research England to reduce the required output pool due to the cumulative effect of multiple declared circumstances that have disproportionately impacted on the unit's ability to produce outputs. These cases have been accepted and further reductions can be requested at the final submission.


Staff who are eligible for submission to REF2021 are invited to voluntarily declare relevant circumstances using the Declaration of Individual Staff Circumstances To maintain confidentiality this should be emailed directly to

A dedicated Staff Circumstances Panel (SCP) will oversee the review of the forms and using the information provided will inform UoAs of qualifying output reductions. It may be necessary to request further information or clarification from an individual, the disclosure of any further information will also be on a voluntary basis.

Although details of qualifying output reductions will be shared with UoAs, details of the circumstances that led to this decision will be kept strictly confidential and not shared. Forms will be reviewed and held confidentially by the SCP; they may be shared with the REF team at audit, this team will also work confidentially.

Should an individual require adjustments at work relating to the circumstances declaration they can choose to give permission on the declaration form to be contacted by their HR Partner and/or faculty or departmental representative. This is entirely optional and not a requirement when declaring circumstances.

The SCP will meet periodically and consists of the following members:

  • Chair - HR Faculty Partner
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager
  • Assistant Director: Digital Innovation and Research Services
  • Head of Research Quality and Policy
  • Secretary – HR Faculty Partner

Declaration forms may be submitted at any time up to 4 December 2020.

Applicable staff circumstances


The information gathered through voluntary declarations of individual staff circumstances will be used for this purpose only. The University will not use this information or any subsequent decision about outputs or individuals in the REF submission for probation, promotion or reward relating to a staff member’s employment or any other Human Resources (HR) process.

Full guidance on the approach to equality-related staff circumstances in REF2021 can be found in Lancaster’s Code of Practice (paragraph 83-107) and the REF Guidance on Submissions (paragraph 151-201).

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