PDR receives world-leading research recognition from the REF
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) released the results of their latest research assessment exercise, and PDR fared impressively, receiving an overall four-star score, the highest rating possible and 5th in place for the UK’s Art and Design Research out of 86 institutions. Professor Andrew Walters, Director of Research at PDR, discusses why this evaluation is so critical and how PDR contributed to this impressive result.
What is the REF, and how is it carried out?
The REF is a national audit of research quality that takes place every 5-7 years. The funding bodies' shared policy goal for research assessment is to maintain a world-class, dynamic, and responsive research base across the entire academic spectrum in UK higher education.
Three distinct elements are evaluated for each submission: the quality of research outputs (e.g., publications, performances, and exhibitions), the impact that research has on the world and the environment that universities create to support research.
Why is this event so significant?
Andrew states, “Due to its strategic importance, universities work very hard to improve their rankings every time this event comes around. Therefore, it takes a lot of time and effort over many years to prepare for submission to the REF,” making it a significant and competitive event.
PDR is both a commercially-oriented institute as well as a research-oriented institute. We can learn what industry needs and expects through high-level design practice, what do clients perceive as good design. This informs our research, working out how design can achieve more, or how design can operate in different contexts; and so, this cycle contributes to the advancement of both our research and practice.Andrew Walters | Director of Research | PDR
What role does this play within PDR, and what contributions did PDR make?
"PDR is both a commercially-oriented institute as well as a research-oriented institute. We can learn what industry needs and expects through high-level design practice, what do clients perceive as good design. This informs our research, working out how design can achieve more, or how design can operate in different contexts; and so, this cycle contributes to the advancement of both our research and practice."
As part of the University’s submission to the REF, PDR submits examples of our research and commercial outputs for review. We do this in collaborations with our colleagues in Cardiff Met’s School of Art and Design. Although the submission covers a broad range of artistic and design research, Andrew notes, “We can work out from the results that PDR has a very positive influence on the end result of the exercise.”
A submission necessitates a substantial investment of resources and time, reviewing research outputs and impact case studies, and deciding which are the best ones to develop and submit. This process begins years before the submission deadline. At submission, each research submits up to five research outputs, each one having taken up to a year to complete. “Four people from PDR were eligible to submit to the REF, but it’s around 30 researchers in the art and design space across Cardiff Met. We had a very significant contribution to the research papers and impact case studies that were submitted, which all scored very highly”.
Research papers and impact case studies are scored separately. The papers are graded based on how good the research is, and the impact case studies are graded based on how much of a difference that research makes in the world. Cardiff Met required three case studies from Art and Design, of which PDR supplied two, based primarily on user-centred design, accounting for roughly a quarter of the overall Art and Design REF result. Leading two of the three case studies is a massive accomplishment for PDR. "Our design policy was praised for demonstrating how design can be used to understand what people expect from government policy. Our argument was about how we could engage citizens and businesses to learn what they needed from government-supported design interventions and then help them design those policies. In addition, we could demonstrate how this benefited businesses financially."
The scoring system ranges from unclassified to four stars and percentages demonstrate how much of that work fits into each of the categories. Unclassified means that the work is not considered research. One-star indicates the research is nationally recognised. A two-star award suggests international recognition, while a three-star award indicates the research is regarded internationally excellent. Finally, a four-star rating demonstrates that you have world-leading research!
The scores received demonstrated that 47% of our research is world-leading and 37% is internationally excellent! This was an impressive result, significantly improving our result from the previous REF in 2014.
The PDR team is proud to have received this acknowledgement for the world-leading research contribution alongside colleagues at the Cardiff School of Art & Design. We would like to thank all involved for their hard work over the past few years that has resulted in this remarkable achievement - We look forward to building on this success in the years to come!