UCL News


REF2014: demonstrating UCL's research impact

18 December 2014

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) assesses research in all higher education institutions in all disciplines.

UCL number 1 REF Submissions are made to 36 subject sub-panels co-ordinated under four main panels: A, B, C and D.

Assessing 'impact' is a key component of the REF assessment, weighted 20% of the final score awarded. As part of its submission, UCL provided hundreds of case studies to demonstrate the impact of the 'reach and significance' of its research in the wider world beyond academia.

These case studies have now been made available online on a new website: www.ucl.ac.uk/impact

Examples from across UCL highlight how the university's research activity addresses the challenges facing the world, bringing benefits in health, culture, policy, business and beyond.

View a selection of impact case studies in the Flickr gallery below:

A small selection of case studies from each main panel and quotes from panel representatives are also highlighted below:

Main Panel A

Professor Alan Thompson, Chair of the UCL School of Life & Medical Sciences Research Board and Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, said: "Our performance in the impact component of the Panel A REF submission has been absolutely integral to our overall success. It shows how the world-leading medical and scientific research communities at UCL have impact firmly embedded in everything they do and that across the diverse disciplines represented in this panel, the central motivation behind our research is to change peoples' lives for the better."​

  • Improved treatment for Tuberculosis patients worldwide

Lead academics: Professor Andrew Nunn, Dr Amina Jindani, Professor Donald Enarson (UCL Institute of Clinical Trials & Methodology and UCL Population Health Sciences)

UCL research led to changes in World Health Organization recommendations on the treatment of tuberculosis. These have been adopted by almost all countries, leading to improved treatment for nearly 8 million patients, and reducing the number suffering relapse.

  • Cognitive Stimulation Therapy - a new therapy for dementia

Lead academics: Professor Martin Orrell (UCL Psychiatry) and Dr Aimee Spector (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology)

Dementia is a common condition that affects about 800,000 people in the UK. UCL research over the last 15 years has led to the development of an evidence-based group therapy for people with dementia, which has changed dementia care within the UK and worldwide.

Main Panel B

Professor Marek Ziebart, Vice-Dean (Research) UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences, said: "The REF is a rigorous exercise assessing the quality of our research. Panel B's return comprises most of our Faculties of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering Sciences. I am both delighted and proud to report that across the board on Panel B we have improved our scores over the 2008 results by circa 10%.

"Both Faculties have areas with substantial gains, particularly when looking at GPA and levels of 4* and *3+4* research. Chemistry, Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science are just some of the areas that have done particularly well. The exercise has also served to showcase the significant reach and impact of our research in the wider world. I congratulate wholeheartedly everyone who has contributed to raising the standard of basic and applied research here at UCL."

  • Tropical storm warning system saves lives

Lead academic: Professor Mark Saunders (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory)

Warnings issued by UCL's award-winning Tropical Storm Tracker have helped to save lives in a number of storms, including the devastating cyclone Sidr and tropical storm Mahasen in Bangladesh. Commercial products complementing these alerts benefit international organisations including the Norwegian Hull Club, which employs them to help more than 9,600 vessels worldwide steer clear of dangerous storms.

  • Trimaran: A novel ship design

Lead academics: Professor David Andrews, Professor Richard Bucknall and Dr Alistair Greig (UCL Mechanical Engineering)

A novel ship design with two slender side hulls supporting a main central hull enables the US Navy to operate its helicopters in bad weather, and ferrying cars and passengers between the remote islands of the Canaries. The ship, known as a trimaran, cuts fuel consumption and harmful greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

Main Panel C

Professor Anson Mackay, Vice-Dean (Research) UCL Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences, said: "World-leading scholarship has resulted in the social sciences at UCL having the strongest research power and share of 4* research in the whole of Panel C. Our research excellence has also translated into outstanding impact, which has benefited society and influenced policy across a wide range of areas including immigration, the UK judiciary, education and the environment."

  • High Quality Pre-school Provision

Lead academic: (UCL Institute of Education)

The UCL Institute of Education study, Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education studied more than 3,000 children. It showed that if they experience high quality pre-school education there are positive and lasting effects on a child's later development. The findings helped to expand pre-school provision and support for families and informed early education curriculum design. 

  • Reduction in UK carbon emissions through use of white light for street lighting

Lead academic: Peter Raynham (UCL Bartlett School of Graduate Studies)

UCL research found that lower levels of brightness are required for white streetlights than for yellow sodium vapour lights. Switching to these dimmer lights led to energy savings of 30-40% and saved 113 GWh of electricity in 2012 alone.

Main Panel D

Professor Jo Wolff, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities, said: "The Panel D REF submission demonstrates how UCL's vibrant research environment in arts and humanities generates both world leading scholarship and extensive impact outside of academia.

 "In case studies from the UCL Slade School of Fine Art to the UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, we see how naturally impact flows from our work and how the idea of benefiting the wider world has always been embedded in our research culture."

  • Engaging with the legacies of British slave-ownership 

Lead academic: Professor Catherine Hall (UCL History)

The Legacies of British Slave Ownership project instigated a high-profile public debate about British slave ownership and its long-term influence on British society, economy, politics and culture, and led to apologies from some of the City's top firms for their past associations with slavery.

  • Histories of the Italian mafias aid the fight against organised crime

Lead academic: Professor John Dickie (UCL SELCS)

Professor Dickie's histories of Italian organised crime have become bestsellers, inspired television documentaries, and educated Italian crime fighters on their adversaries. This led, for example, to the recognition that the brutal Calabrian 'ndrangheta was not a loose collection of gangs but a mafia coordinated by a central committee.