Options Paper

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise is a statutory data return of strategic importance that requires a large amount of historic publication, Human Resources (HR) and Finance data. The introduction of a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to replace existing HR and Finance systems, and, to a lesser extent, the ongoing adaptation to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), means that current data flows to the REF work will need to change at four different future stages.

This paper outlines solutions to ensure that the REF team will continue to have access to the data it needs through these stages.

Stage 1 concerned the possibility that the REF team couldn’t access HR, Finance and Student data because of the planned anonymisation of personal data in Business Intelligence (BI) solutions. For HR and Finance, this risk was managed by agreeing not to implement the anonymisation of existing BI solutions, but instead wait for new anonymised Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) datamarts to become available. This is planned to happen after the REF 2021 staff census date (31st July 2020)[QD1] , with initial versions of the HR datamart with legacy data slated for summer 2020, and the same for a Finance datamart in the final quarter of 2020. Data from the new ERP will be added after that, subject to Core Systems programme delivery dates and EDW development resource availability. Student data is supplied to the REF outside of BI solutions.

Stage 2 concerned the possibility that up-to-date Finance and HR data would no longer be available in the legacy systems by the REF census date. This risk was managed by an agreement to keep the legacy finance system in use until August 2020, in order to facilitate the REF, the HESA return and general end-of-financial year reporting. HR data will be synchronised between the new ERP and the legacy HR system for a short period of time for the same reason.

Stage 3 is about the possibility that the University is not able to supply documentary evidence to back up its’ REF data return during the REF auditing stage, which is between December 2020 and November 2021. Part of this evidence will need to be in the form of screenshots of staff records from the HR system. At that point, however, the existing HR system will have been decommissioned.

To deal with that issue, following consultation with ISG senior management and the Core Systems programme, we propose to create the screenshot evidence by script ahead of time, with manual screenshot creation as a back-up. The total work at this stage will cost between £1,750 and £4,500, and will be tackled in a separate follow-up project to RIS008.

Stage 4 is about the possibility that historic HR and Finance data is not available for the  post 2021 REF [QD2] exercise. At that point, the required historic finance and HR data could be sourced from either the Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) or a Historic Data Store (HDS). This choice, however, is subject to many considerations beyond the REF, and is being managed as part of the Core Systems programme. The RIS008 project analysed both options, and a separate Core Systems implementation project will be set up after the ERP implementation to design and implement a definitive post 2021 REF exercise solution. The historic HR and Finance datasets that need to be preserved for the post 2021 REF exercise have been identified.

REF2021 Timeline


Please view the agreed options paper here: RIS008 Options Paper V7

Project Info

REF2021 Data Requirements Analysis
Research Information Systems (RIS)
Management Office
Project Manager
Tim Gray
Project Sponsor
Jacqueline McMahon
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