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The Festival of the Hidden REF: Bringing Non-Traditional Research Roles in from the Cold

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The Festival of the Hidden REF: Bringing Non-Traditional Research Roles in from the Cold

Simon Hettrick

Simon Hettrick

Director of Strategy

Posted on 25 May 2023

Estimated read time: 4 min
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The Festival of the Hidden REF: Bringing Non-Traditional Research Roles in from the Cold

Posted by d.barclay on 25 May 2023 - 2:30pm

A bridge and hot air balloons on a sunny day, the hidden ref logo on the bottom rightBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director, Software Sustainability Institute.

The inaugural Festival of Hidden REF is coming to Bristol on Thursday 21 September 2023. This unique event will bring together policymakers, publishers, and people in non-traditional research roles to explore ways of improving the assessment of research in the UK. You can sign up to be notified about early registration on the Festival website. General registration is free and will open on 3 July 2023.

Founded in 2021, the Hidden REF is a grassroots campaign aimed at securing recognition for non-traditional research roles and practices that research assessment bodies have historically overlooked.

While the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) is open to examining a diverse range of research outputs and the broad interdisciplinary community of people who create them, institutions tend to be conservative with their submissions. As a result, the REF ends up focusing on publications – and the select few academics who are named. Most other members of the vast and rapidly evolving research community – that is, librarians, Research Software Engineers, technicians, lived experience contributors, and countless other established and emerging disciplines – are absent from the picture of UK research that the REF is constantly building and shaping through its assessments.

This chronic oversight constrains the potential of UK research by perpetuating a regime in which recognition fails to reach the individuals and institutions who often carry out the most innovative research.

Recognising this, the Hidden REF was launched in 2021 as a competition, allowing individuals to submit examples of research that fell outside the criteria normally submitted to the REF. It was a phenomenally valuable exercise, garnering attention from major scientific publications, generating a huge amount of online commentary, and even moving one submission reviewer to tears. Having begun as a one-off event, the Hidden REF quickly became a movement, pressing for vital reform in UK research.

The Festival of Hidden REF is the first opportunity for the members of that movement to gather in one place, exchange ideas, share stories, and collectively plot a more positive way forward for the UK research community.

Taking place at M Shed, an innovative dockside museum space on Bristol’s Princes Wharf, the Festival of Hidden REF is a free one-day event made up of lectures, break-out groups, expert panels, and more. The event will be attended by policymakers from across government and academia, as well as those involved in designing research assessment frameworks in the UK and abroad.

More importantly, it will be attended by those who have contributed to research without receiving the proper recognition - the hidden roles - either for the contributions they have made or for the potentially valuable outputs they have helped to create.

If your work falls into any of the categories set out by the Hidden REF–or, more importantly, an entirely new category that we haven’t thought of yet–we hope to see you in Bristol on 21 September.

The Festival of Hidden REF is an open and collaborative forum that relies on new ideas and perspectives. To that end, a working document will be curated throughout the event, incorporating delegates’ ideas and insights, and eventually disseminated throughout the research community in a bid to bring these ideas into the light.

Whether you can make it or not, we hope to hear from you. Please get in touch with your ideas and questions.

If you would like to help with the organisation and running of the Festival of Hidden REF, meanwhile, we encourage you to sign up.

Keep checking the Hidden REF website and Twitter for the latest news.

And hope to see you in September!

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