The front of Rutherford McCowan with the REF2021 Logo

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 - School of Interdisciplinary Studies (SIS)

The School of Interdisciplinary Studies is proud to be one of the five Schools that comprise the University of Glasgow’s College of Social Sciences, itself one of the largest centers of social science research in the UK. We are also delighted by the results from REF21 showing that on average, 93% of the research submitted by these Schools has been assessed as world leading and internationally excellent in its originality, significance and rigor as has 88% of their outputs. In addition, more than 98% of the impact case studies were assessed as having world-leading or internationally excellent reach and significance.

Where most Schools are predominately discipline-based, SIS is intrinsically interdisciplinary. Its academic staff are at the forefront of their disciplines and expert at working in novel ways to achieve impact through interdisciplinarity. This expertise in working across disciplines underpins their many collaborations across the University and in local, national and international partnerships which, in turn, generate impact at all three levels. This skill is recognized by external funding bodies including the: AHRC-DCMS, ESRC, EU, BA/Leverhulme, NERC and the Templeton Religious Trust, who have provided the substantial financial resource enabling SIS to build:

- Large UK consortia to investigate areas as diverse as Flood Prediction, Culture and Heritage capital, and Aspects of Dying in the Global north, nature-based solutions to natural hazards; and,

- international consortia to investigate, for example, The Philosophy of Education, Gendered Inequalities in Tourism Entrepreneurship, and Risks to, and Sustainability of, Social and Ecological Systems Facing Natural Hazards.

In blending subject expertise with multiple disciplinary foundations, SIS’s well developed, collaborative approach delivers a breadth of research, whose rigor, quality and impacts have enabled us to contribute to REF 2021, the national assessment of the quality of UK higher education research, in no less than 7 Units of Assessment (UoAs) including:

UoA20 - Social Work and Social Policy

We were delighted to receive the results from the REF 2021 submission to UoA20 confirming that 95% of the group’s work overall is ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ - as are 92.2% of outputs. The submission came from a group drawn from the School of Social and Political Science, SIS, and the Institute of Health and Wellbeing who are united in their commitment to civic social science and shared interest in tackling social inequalities and injustices through policy-relevant research. Here, the examples of Dr Hunter’s work at the intersection of ageing and migration, Dr Richard’s work on cultural and organisational aspects of dying, and Dr De Jong’s on gendered inequalities demonstrate different ways in which our interdisciplinary approach enables us to address complex policy challenges for which solution lie outside a single area of policy or disciplinary perspective.

UoA23 – Education

In common with all who contributed to this UoA, our educational research is designed to make a tangible difference for the most vulnerable in society. We see this in, for example, Dr Law’s work on cognitive aspects of reading and spelling development, and interventions to support learners with literacy difficulties. Work of this nature reflects our commitment to research that is beneficial to communities at local, national and international level and provides research insights and tools that can be used and deployed by a wide range of stakeholders. 

We are proud to have been part of a UoA in which 75% of its impact on society and 37.6% of its outputs are judged to be ‘world leading’ and, 25% and 45% respectively to be ‘internationally excellent’.

Both UoA20 and UoA23, achieved the maximum score of 100% in assessments of the environment we have established to support research. We believe this is in no small measure, due to the highly collegiate approach that permeates the School along with its supportive culture and infrastructure. This sees highly experienced academics realise their commitment to inspire and nurture early career academics by enabling their ideas to incubate and then facilitating their realisation as research.  It is also testimony to the collective effort of all colleagues in the School who have created a thriving, vibrant and supportive research culture involving both academic and non-academic partners.

UoA19 - Politics and International Studies

We were also delighted to learn that publications submitted to this UoA have been rated particularly highly with 83% classed as either ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, and 100% of its research impact similarly rated ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’. We are delighted to have contributed to these excellent results as part of an UoA that includes staff from Politics and International Relations, Central and Eastern European Studies and SIS and which further demonstrates the collegiate ethos that pervades research at the University of Glasgow.

UoA07 - Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

This group is drawn from SIS, the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre who are united in their strong desire to address grand science challenges. Their research brings together the latest approaches and techniques in ecosystem and environmental change, human-environmental interactions, and earth and planetary evolution where the research impact on policy is significant. This is seen in, for  example, the global uptake of ecosystem-based approaches for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to which the work of Professor Renaud’s team contributes. We were delighted to learn that 87% of the overall research submission from this group had been assessed as world-leading and internationally excellent as was 89% of its research outputs and 88% of its impact case studies.

Interdisciplinary colleagues who are specialist in humanities disciplines also contributed to the impressive outcomes achieved by two further UoAs. We are pleased and proud to have made a contribution to achieving the maximum score of 100% by both UoA27 - English Language and Literature and UoA28 - History in the assessments of their environments. Also to the 82.5% and 84.6% (respectively) of their outputs that were judged to be world leading and internationally excellent.

Reflecting on these outcomes, Professor Carol Hill, Head of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies said“the past decade has seen considerable investment in our academic staff at all levels and we have worked hard to provide an environment that encourages and enables colleagues to develop and deliver ambitious and socially relevant research that leads to the development of excellent academic and non-academic collaborations, academic publications, and impactful research in Scotland, the UK and internationally”.

Adding to this, and with an eye to the future, the School’s Director of Research, Professor Fabrice Renaud, concluded that: “The School now has a very strong foundation on which to deliver ambitious, relevant and impactful interdisciplinary research, and will continue to develop an environment within which colleagues can secure and conduct research that can make a real difference for society and our planet.