RAE2001 logo

[Previous] [Next] [Contents]

RAE 4/01

December 2001

2001 Research Assessment Exercise: The Outcome

2 Overview of the 2001 RAE

The primary purpose of the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was to produce ratings of research quality which will be used by the higher education funding bodies in determining the main grant for research to the institutions they fund. The RAE was conducted jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL). The RAE Team, based at the HEFCE offices, managed the exercise on behalf of the four funding bodies.

The 2001 RAE followed broadly the same approach as previous exercises. Eligible higher education institutions (HEIs) were invited to submit their research activity for assessment. Submissions were made to a number of subject-based Units of Assessment (UoAs). The information supplied by HEIs provided the basis for peer review assessment of research quality by specialist panels.


Submissions were made in a standard form that included both quantitative and descriptive elements. As well as providing information specifically requested by the funding bodies, institutions had the opportunity to draw panels’ attention to any matters that they considered particularly relevant to judgements of research quality. Full details of the contents of, and arrangements for making, submissions were published in ‘Research Assessment Exercise 2001: Guidance on Submissions’ (RAE 2/99).

For the 2001 RAE, 2,598 submissions were received from 173 HEIs, listing the work of almost 50,000 researchers.

The funding bodies will publish on the internet those parts of submissions that contain factual data and textual information about the research activity. This will include the names of selected staff and the listings of their research output. Personal and contractual details, and details of the future research plans of institutions, will not be published. Data on research students and research assistants supervised will be presented in aggregate. Institutions have been given an opportunity to indicate any details that should be omitted from the published list for reasons of security. It is anticipated that the submissions will be published in the spring of 2002.


All information provided by HEIs in submissions to the 2001 RAE was subjected to a process of checking and verification. Submissions were compared with other available datasets, including bibliographic resources, returns from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the Research Activity Survey (where applicable) and information held by the Research Councils. As the basis of return for each of these datasets is different, an exact match was not expected. However, where there appeared to be major differences between the returns, further investigation was undertaken. In addition, at least one submission from each HEI was audited in detail. For HEIs making large numbers of submissions or with high volumes of staff, more submissions were audited.

HEIs were required to supply extracts from their payroll and personnel records, student and graduation records, finance records and such other information as was necessary to verify the data in their RAE submissions. Panel members were also asked to draw attention to any areas of concern in submissions, and all such concerns were investigated. Where necessary, submissions were amended and panels were supplied with the corrected information.


The assessment process was based on peer review and was not mechanistic. Assessment panels used their professional judgement to form a view about the overall quality of the research activity described in each submission, taking into account all the evidence presented. They formed their judgements in the context of the statements of criteria and working methods published in advance in ‘Research Assessment Exercise 2001: Assessment Panels’ Criteria and Working Methods’ (RAE 5/99).

The census date for the exercise was 31 March 2001. Institutions were invited to provide information on staff in post on that date, and on public output that they had produced during the assessment period. The assessment period was 1 January 1994 to 31 December 2000 for arts and humanities subjects (UoAs 45 to 67 inclusive), and 1 January 1996 to 31 December 2000 for other subjects (UoAs 1 to 44, 68 and 69). All information had to be submitted by 30 April 2001.

Institutions were invited to list research-active individuals in the following categories:

a. Category A: academic staff in post at the submitting institution on the census date who do not fall into the definition of Category A* below.

b. Category A*: academic staff who had transferred employment between eligible UK HEIs in the period between 1 April 2000 and 30 March 2001 inclusive.

c. Category B: academic staff who held a contract with the institution after 1 January 1996 and who left the institution (or, exceptionally, transferred into a department returned under a different UoA) after that date and before the census date. Category B excludes those staff who fall within the definition of Category A*.

d. Category C: other individuals active in research in the department as independent investigators at the census date.

e. Category D: other individuals active in research in the department as independent investigators after 1 January 1996 but not at the census date.

Institutions were invited to list up to four items of research output for each individual (Category A or C) whose research was to be taken into account (up to two items for Category A*). These items could be any form of available assessable output. Proper account was taken of the complete range of research. Panels gave full recognition to the quality of work of direct relevance to commerce and industry, as well as to the health, public and voluntary sectors. All research, whether applied, basic or strategic, was given equal weight, and all forms of output were treated on an equitable basis. Panels were concerned only with the quality of the work submitted for assessment.

Definition of research and eligible outputs

The definition of research that applied in the exercise, as set out in the Guidance on Submissions (RAE 2/99) was as follows.

‘Research’ for the purpose of the RAE is to be understood as original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding. It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce and industry, as well as to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship*; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances and artefacts, including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and analysis of materials, components and processes, e.g. for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques. It also excludes the development of teaching materials that do not embody original research.

* Scholarship is defined for the RAE as the creation, development and maintenance of the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines, in forms such as dictionaries, scholarly editions, catalogues and contributions to major research databases.

In order to be eligible for submission, all items of research output must have embodied the outcomes of research as defined for the purposes of the RAE. Teaching materials were admissible where they could be shown to embody research within the RAE definition, but the preparation of teaching materials in itself was not accepted as a research activity for the purposes of the RAE.

Assessment panels

The Units of Assessment for the 2001 RAE were the same as those used in the previous exercise in 1996 with the exception that, following consultation, the separate Biochemistry unit (UoA 12) was discontinued. All UoAs were described at the beginning of the relevant criteria statement, in a format which indicated the key subject areas they encompassed. The full list of UoAs is reproduced in Section 4.

There was normally one assessment panel for each UoA, although joint panels served 14 UoAs. The joint panels were as follows:

PanelUnits of Assessment
5 to 85Pre-Clinical Studies
15 to 1715Agriculture
16Food Science and Technology
 17Veterinary Science
20 to 2120Earth Sciences
 21 Environmental Sciences
26 and 3126General Engineering
 31Mineral and Mining Engineering
40 to 4140Social Policy and Administration
 41Social Work

The membership of the assessment panels, the method of their selection, and an account of their role and operation, were set out in ‘Research Assessment Exercise 2001: Membership of Assessment Panels’ (RAE 3/99). Panels were composed of senior academic staff and, where appropriate, non-academic users of research including those from industry, the healthcare and voluntary sectors, the professions and Government.

During the RAE the chairs of assessment panels in cognate areas met in umbrella groups. The umbrella groups were:

IMedical and Biological SciencesUoAs 1 to 17
IIPhysical Sciences and EngineeringUoAs 18 to 32
IIISocial SciencesUoAs 33 to 44, 68, 69
IVArea Studies and LanguagesUoAs 45 to 56
VArts and HumanitiesUoAs 57 to 67

The role of the umbrella groups was to facilitate cross-panel consistency in the assessment process and application of standards. Particular attention was given to areas of work that spanned the boundaries of UoAs, including interdisciplinary research.

There is no formal provision for appeals to the funding bodies against the ratings that have been awarded through the 2001 RAE.


[Previous] [Next] [Contents]

Last updated 14 December 2001

[ Home | About the RAE2001 | Panels | Guidance for panel members | Guidance for institutions | Publications  ]