UCL Research


Voluntary declaration of staff circumstances

Information about the process for declaring individual circumstances that staff feel have affected their ability to research productively during the REF assessment period (2014-2020)

As part of UCL’s commitment to supporting equality and diversity in REF we have put in place safe and supportive structures for staff to voluntarily declare information about any circumstances that may have affected their ability to research productively during the REF assessment period, and particularly their ability to produce research outputs at the same rate as other staff. 

In REF2021 all staff eligible to be included in the REF submission are required to be returned with a minimum of 1 research output and a maximum of 5 outputs.  Each unit of assessment (UoA) is required to return an average of 2.5 outputs per FTE of the unit’s submission.

Removing the requirement of one output

If you have experienced circumstances during the period 1 January 2014 to 31 July 2020 which have had an exceptional effect on your ability to work productively so that you have not been able to produce a single eligible output during this period, you can request for the minimum requirement of one output to be removed. In REF terms an output is eligible where it satisfies the REF definition of research and was published between 1st January 2014 and 31st December 2020. You can be  included in the REF submission with no outputs only if any of the following apply:

  1. An overall period of 46 months or more absence from research during the assessment period, due to one or more of the circumstances set out in paragraph 5 below (such as an Early Career Researcher (ECR) who has only been employed as an eligible staff member for part of the assessment period and works part-time);
  2. Circumstances equivalent to 46 months or more absence from research, where circumstances set out in paragraph 5 apply (such as mental health issues, caring responsibilities, long-term health conditions);
  3. Two or more periods of family related (maternity, paternity or adoption) leave during the census period.

With reference to (b) above, staff should note that the phrase “equivalent to 46 months’ absence” does not imply that only those circumstances that result in actual absence from work will be judged to be eligible.  UCL understands that staff manage circumstances of this type in a number of ways, including flexible working arrangements rather than taking sickness absence. Staff should consult paragraphs 90 and 91 of UCL’s REF Code of Practice for further information.

Reducing the number of outputs in the output pool for the UoA

If you have experienced any of the circumstances outlined at paragraph 5 below but you have the minimum requirement of one output you may still wish to disclose circumstances that have affected your ability to produce outputs during the REF period. If a number of staff in the same UoA have experienced staff circumstances the UoA may be eligible to be returned with fewer outputs.

Applicable circumstances:

  • Qualifying as an ECR (started career as an independent researcher on or after 1 August 2016)
  • Absence from work due to secondments or career breaks outside the HE sector
  • Qualifying periods of family-related leave
  • Junior clinical academics who have not gained a Certificate of Completion of training by 31 July 2020
  • Disability (including chronic conditions)
  • Ill heath, injury or mental health conditions
  • Constraints relating to pregnancy, maternity, paternity, adoption or childcare that fall outside of – or justify the reduction of further outputs in addition to the standard allowances
  • Caring responsibilities (such as an elderly or disabled family member)
  • Gender reassignment
  • Other circumstances (e.g. bereavement)

How to apply

If your ability to research productively during the assessment period has been constrained due to one or more of the circumstances listed above, you may download and complete the Staff Circumstances form here: 


This form can be returned electronically so long as it is encrypted (password protected) or by hard copy to the REF Manager.

Completion and return of the form is entirely on a voluntary basis, and individuals who do not choose to complete and submit a form will not be pressured to declare information if they do not wish to do so. This form is the only means by which we will be gathering this information; we will not be consulting HR records, contract start dates etc. except to verify, where possible, circumstances declared. You may therefore complete and return the form if any of the above circumstances apply and you are willing to provide the associated information. 

Applications will be reviewed by UCL's REF Staff Circumstances and Appeals Panel (SCAP). The provisional decision of SCAP will be communicated in confidence to the staff member by the REF Manager. If the decision is not to recommend the output reduction, the staff member will be told of their right to appeal. They will be able to discuss the initial decision with the REF Manager, Chair of SCAP or HR representative. If the staff member decides to appeal the decision, the REF manager may request further information pertinent to the appeal. 

Appeals Process

As the initial decision will have been taken by SCAP, a new Panel will be convened to consider appeals on the basis of staff circumstances. This will consist of at least three senior members of staff that have received the REF-specific EDI training and who are not members of SCAP. Staff who are considering making an appeal should speak to the REF Manager, the Chair of SCAP or an HR representative.


The Higher Education Fundin Bodies ask Higher Education Institutions to submit requests to reduce the number of outputs required of UoAs by March 2020.  Staff are, therefore, encourage to submit applications by 31 January 2020.  Provision has been made for changes in circumstances to be taken into account after this date (see Changes in Circumstances below). 

Ensuring confidentiality

The completed forms will only be seen by UCL’s REF Staff Circumstances and Appeals Panel (SCAP) – information will not be disclosed to UoA leads or heads of departments. However if you wish to discuss staff circumstances with a member of staff in your department you may do so on a voluntary basis.

If UCL decides to apply to the funding bodies for either form of reduction of outputs (removal of ‘minimum of one’ requirement or unit circumstances), we will need to provide them with summary data that you have disclosed about your individual circumstances, to show that the criteria have been met for reducing the number of outputs. 

At UCL information on staff circumstances will be kept confidential to the UCL REF Manager and SCAP. The REF Manager will destroy the submitted data about individuals’ circumstances on completion of the audit phase in late 2021 or early 2022. 

Changes in circumstances

UCL recognises that staff circumstances may change between completion of the declaration form and the census date (31 July 2020). If this is the case, then staff should contact the REF team (and where appropriate the HR Business Partner) to provide the updated information

Further information

UCL’s REF2021 Code of Practice sets out in full the process by with staff circumstances will be managed at UCL (paras 86-105). Please also see the ‘Guidance on submissions’ document (paragraphs 151-201) for more detail about reductions in outputs and how Research England’s Equalities and Diversities Panel will manage the process for staff circumstances.