Research Excellence Framework (REF) UofA20

Social Policy research at Glasgow seeks to understand, challenge, and ameliorate social inequalities and injustices. With 57 staff (51.49FTE) submitted to UoA 20, we are a large group drawn from the Schools of Social and Political Science (SPS), the School of Interdisciplinary Studies (SIS) and the Institute of Health and Wellbeing (IHW). We are united in our commitment to civic social science, and share common interests in tackling social inequalities and injustices, nationally and internationally, through policy-relevant research underpinned by social theoretical expertise and methodological rigour. We are  inherently interdisciplinary, enabling us to address complex policy challenges whose solution does not lie in a single area of policy or disciplinary perspective, and allowing us to merge and adapt theoretical frameworks from different fields.  

We are delighted to receive the results from our REF 2021 submission, with 95% of our work overall being recognised as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent.’ This is testament to the hard work of all colleagues, who have collectively created a thriving, vibrant and supportive research culture, which enables our theoretically sophisticated and methodologically informed research to take place. Thanks also to our extensive and varied academic and non-academic partners, who have worked with us to contribute to our research environment and to support our research impact. 

We submitted a diverse range of outputs -– monographs, articles, edited books, book chapters, and research reports – reflecting the breadth, depth and variety of the work undertaken in our key research areas of Health and Wellbeing, Crime and Justice, Migration, Racism and Citizenship, and Social and Digital Transformations. We are delighted that 92.2% of our outputs have been recognised as ‘world leading’ (42.6%) or ‘internationally excellent (49.6%), demonstrating their scholarship, originality, rigour and significance. This recognition of rigour confirms our long-standing strengths in social theory, and the range of methodological approaches (e.g., multi-level modelling; digital ethnography, visual and sensory methods, collaborative action research) that we bring to the production of innovative analyses.  

We are absolutely thrilled that 100% of our research environment has been recognised as conducive to producing research of ‘world-leading’ quality and enabling outstanding impact. Collectively we have nurtured a thriving, vibrant and supportive research culture, facilitated by the College of Social Science Equality, Inclusion and Diversity Committee, and as recognised by IHW’s Athena Swan Gold award. We have developed supportive processes for staff at all stages of their career, including peer support for grant-writing and pre-publication review, and we are particularly proud of the support that we provide for our large cohort of PGR students and their integration into and enrichment of, our research environment. As a result of our mechanisms of peer support, access to professional services staff, expertise and research facilities, we achieved major success in grant applications this cycle. Our total income, from diverse sources, more than quadrupled, to £23,796,350 in 2021, with 61% of awards held by women. Our staff are recognised for their contributions to the wider research base important and make timely contributions to a range of academic, policy and practice debates in established and emergent social fields.   

We aim to make a difference, by engaging constructively with public debate, policy development, professional practices, and the lived experiences of citizens locally, nationally and globally. Our approach to impact recognises it is best pursued through the development and maintenance of long-term relationships with non-academic partners. We do not generate and deliver new knowledge to these groups; rather, we develop research agendas, processes and impact with them. Much of our research is conceived and conducted in and through collaboration, and this is both a key strength and a key source of sustainable impact.  

We are absolutely thrilled to say that 100% of our impact case studies were considered to be ‘world-leading’ (40%) or ‘internationally excellent’ (60%) demonstrating the reach and significance of our research impact. Our impact strategy combined the appointment of an Impact Champion, provision of bespoke impact workshops, with utilisation of the University’s internal training and financial resources to deliver a programme of support for engagement and impact. Our activities garnered impact prizes for 4 of our research teams, and generated 14 potential Impact Case Studies (ICS). We submitted 5 ICSs to REF 2021 showing the ways in which our research has an impact at local, national and international levels. The ICS variously highlighted: how our research shaped policy on HIV prevention; how it informed the policy and practice development of processes to support survivors of rape throughout the criminal justice process; how our research has been used to re-design policy and practice so that new forms of support for desistance and reintegration have developed; how research on migrants’ experiences of settlement led to the establishment of self-sustaining creative cafés to assist integration and settlement, and; how our research informed a weight management and healthy lifestyle programme which is being delivered through professional football, rugby, ice hockey and Australian Rules Football in 11 countries globally.   

Michele Burman REF Champion said: “As REF Champion, I am truly delighted that all of the hard work, dedication and commitment of staff in the Unit  has been recognised through these outstanding results. Collegiality has been at the heart of our endeavours and we are very proud that the vitality and sustainability of our research environment, the scholarship of our publications and the significance of our impact has been validated in this way.”  

That we have achieved such excellent results in REF 2021 is due to the efforts, hard work and dedication of all of the members of the Unit, the professional services staff in the College of Social Science and the University who have worked with us to assimilate and data and information on which this submission rests, and all of our external partners who have worked so well with us over the past 7 years.  

Going forward, we will build on these excellent REF 2021 results to ensure the sustainability and vitality of our research environment, specifically through the following: 

  1. Building of research capacity - recruiting more staff to bring different forms of research expertise, and to invest in capacity development, supporting our PGRs and early career staff, focusing on activities that make Glasgow a great place to develop a career. 
  2. Expansion of collaborative research with external partners – successful partnerships depend on an understanding and appreciation of diverse forms of expertise, and we will work to remove (practical, procedural) barriers and strengthen our mechanisms for supporting staff to initiate and sustain meaningful collaborations and partnerships. 
  1. Production of theoretically informed and impactful research on pressing policy issues -through collaborative and interdisciplinary research, we will aim to address urgent social policy challenges. 
  2. Generation of research income from diverse sources - maintaining our grant success will depend on our capacity to respond quickly to challenge-led funding and take advantage of opportunities presented by inter-disciplinary and international calls. We plan, then, to widen and diversify our funders to support priority areas.