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Cardiff professor appointed to REF committee

Professor David Whitaker will represent allied health professions on the REF2021 assessment panel

Professor David Whitaker

Cardiff University’s Professor David Whitaker (pictured) has been appointed to represent allied health professions on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 committee.

The REF is a system for assessing the quality of research in higher educational institutions across the UK. It last took place in 2014 and the outcome will determine the amount of funding awarded to institutions.

Interim head of school at Cardiff University, Professor Whitaker, joins a panel of 20 experts. He was selected by the REF following nominations that were made by a range of optical organisations, including fellow heads of UK optometry schools.

The REF assessment is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies, which includes the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.  

Professor Whitaker will now work with other panel members to establish a mechanism for how the REF2021 will measure research quality, as well as the timescales associated to the assessment. 

Professor Whitaker explained that the range of research performed in UK institutions is diverse and that the REF is therefore broken down into 34 subject-based units of assessment. Professor Whitaker will represent allied health professions in a unit that also includes dentistry, nursing and pharmacy.

Funding bodies will appoint further sub-panel members and assessors in 2020, following a survey of institutions’ intentions to submit to the REF.

The final evaluation is expected to take place during 2021.

Speaking about the appointment, Professor Whitaker told OT: "For many years now optometry has punched above its weight in terms of the quality of research it generates. This doesn’t just include optometric research – it extends to a wider audience including medicine and the other Allied Health Professions, as well as fundamental science. In my position as REF2021 panel member, I hope to continue to promote our excellence across all areas of research."