The UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) collects research outputs from UK universities and is used by the the country’s government to distribute around £2 billion in research funding. But its focus on publications to measure outputs has drawn criticism.

The Hidden REF, set up in 2020, looks at alternative measures. Simon Hettrick, its chair and director of the Software Susaintability Institute at the University of Southampton, UK, explains what can be submitted, and why publications are excluded.

Gemma Derrick, a former member of the Hidden REF advisory committee who studies research policy and culture at the University of Bristol, UK, talks about its “hidden roles” category, and why some entries moved judges to tears.

Kevin Atkins, who has worked as a site engineer at the University of Plymouth’s Marine Biological Association for 32 years, was highly commended in the category. He describes a typical day, and how his work contributes to the wider research enterprise.

Another highly commended entry was Growing up on the Streets, an international co-produced research project led by the University of Dundee, which focuses on around 200 young people aged 14 to 20 across three African cities: Accra, Bukavu and Harare.

Lorraine van Blerk, a human geography researcher at the university, explains how six young people in each city were recruited as researchers, and how their roles were recognised and celebrated.