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Professor Stephen Williamson

Leeds-HKU Conference: Moving Beyond Research to Engagement and Impact

Speakers and Panelists

Professor Stephen Williamson

Professor Stephen Williamson
Emeritus Professor, University of Surrey; Chairman of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 Sub-panel 13: Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials

Assessing Impact: The Experiences of a REF2014 Sub-Panel Chairman


The UK changed the format of its 2014 research assessment exercise, introducing an Impact component, worth 20% of the overall quality profile. The new element called for the production of Impact Case Studies, which caused much consternation amongst academics of all disciplines, who were more familiar with writing scholarly articles and research proposals. It also posed the assessment panels the problem of interpreting the star ratings. What, for example, is the difference between 'considerable impact', 'very considerable impact', and 'outstanding impact' in terms of reach and significance? These correspond respectively to 2*, 3*, and 4*.

In my talk I will outline how the chair of one Engineering sub-panel dealt with this problem, and what particular features of a Case Study were found to be attractive – or otherwise. I will also outline how the Case Studies are proving to be an extremely valuable resource, and are being mined by universities, research funding bodies, other public and private organisations, to provide evidence that research in UK universities is indeed making an impact.


Professor Stephen Williamson is an Engineering graduate of Imperial College. He spent most of his career in universities, having held chairs at Cambridge and Manchester before moving to become Deputy VC for Research and Innovation at the University of Surrey. He retired from Surrey in July 2013.

Steve was a member of the UK's RAE2001 Electrical and Electronic Engineering sub-panel, and was chair of the same panel for RAE2008. He was also chair of the UK's REF2014 Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials sub-panel, and Hong-Kong's RAE2014 Electrical and Electronic Engineering sub-panel.

Steve has collaborated with manufacturing industry throughout his academic life, and continues to do so in retirement. He currently chairs an independent advisory board for Rolls-Royce, is a non-executive director for Tesla Engineering, and is retained by a major UK construction company.

Presentation slides