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What is in a name? Evidence of impact in palliative and end-of-life care in the 2014 REF is difficult to find
  1. Florence Todd Fordham1 and
  2. Bill Noble2
  1. 1London, UK
  2. 2Academic Unit of Supportive Care, Sheffield Hallam University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Florence Todd Fordham, Marie Curie, London, SE1 7TP, UK; f.toddfordham{at}

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The UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) to become the new system for assessing the quality of academic research in the UK.1 The results of REF help the four UK higher education funding bodies allocate research funds in the UK. The 2014 REF was the first exercise of this kind to collect information on the impact of research as an outcome measure, defining impact as ‘any effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’.2 Impact was assessed in terms of reach and significance, using information provided in 6975 impact case studies.3

Impact case studies contributed to 20% of the total assessment of UK higher education institutions in 2014 and were submitted as four page documents describing the impacts between January 2008 and July 2013. To submit an impact case study, the university had to prove that it had produced high-quality research which resulted in tangible impact. The fact that impact case studies were given such a high weighting indicates a cultural shift, part of a wider impact agenda,4 suggesting that the social benefit of research is now more widely regarded.

Palliative and end-of-life care research has focused on social benefits for a long time, in particular on improving the quality of life for people living with a terminal …

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  • Competing interests BN and FTF are employed by Marie Curie, a UK charitable sector funding body for palliative care research.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.