Guidance on Impact Evidence Collection for REF2021

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Now that the time for generating impact is drawing to a close (cut-off for impact generation for inclusion in case studies is 31 July 2020), focus should be turning towards the collection and collation of evidence to corroborate the impacts being claimed.

One main source of impact evidence that many of our case study leads will be using is testimonial evidence.

Below is an example of best practice in how to obtain a testimonial:

  • Maintain ongoing informal discussions with your testimonial contacts so that they are primed for your request
  • Decide which form of testimonial would work best with your chosen contact: this could be a video testimonial, a written testimonial or an interview, which is then written up into a testimonial
  • The ‘interview’ process could unfold as follows:
  1. Case study lead reflecting on what contact and others had said (this may take a few months of iterative refinement of bullet points)
  2. Case study lead turning the bullet points into questions
  3. Case study lead then ordering the questions to be logical to be used in an interview with the contact
  4. Case study lead obtaining formal permission to conduct an interview for a testimonial to be developed which would ultimately be used in REF submission and appear on our web-page for impact
  5. Case study lead conducting the interview either face-to-face, via Skype or phone and recording it
  6. Case study lead transcribing the interview and extracting ‘the important stuff’ into a basic narrative
  7. Case study lead sharing the basic narrative with School Impact Lead/University’s Impact Coordinator for constructive feedback in order to create the first draft of the testimonial
  8. Case study lead sharing the draft testimonial with colleagues to provide critical feedback and then re-editing where necessary
  9. Case study lead sending the testimonial to their contact, suggesting that they edit to what they are happy with and then signs off (on letter-headed paper)

This process can take some time, so this must be factored in when requesting testimonials.

In theory, you can submit 10 testimonials, although it is better to triangulate the evidence as much as possible with difference sources. Regardless of the number of testimonials submitted, the contact details of only 5 of the testimonial referees will need to be sent to REF for audit purposes.

REF Privacy Notices are available on our REF intranet site and will also appear soon on our new externally-facing research web pages.

Please do send the link to anyone who is writing a testimonial for your case study so that they are clear about how their data will be used and stored by both the Central REF team and by us at the University.

Go to to check out all the REF guidance and more.

If you would like to find out more about impact in general, please contact Emma Sutton, Impact, Engagement and Environment Coordinator on

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