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Research output metrics: The role of metrics in research assessment

A guide to bibliometrics and other ways to measure the impact of published research

Summary of the Metrics Tide

In April 2014 HEFCE commissioned a review of the role of metrics in research assessment. The reports and findings of the review  were published on the 9th July 2015 and can be found at

The key message from the report is that metrics cannot and should not replace peer review within research assessment. There is scope to use additional metrics to complement peer review (of all REF elements).

For research outputs, the review found that in REF2014, at an individual output level, individual metrics give significantly different results to those given by peer review. Therefore, metrics should not replace peer review assessment of the individual outputs. The review did support the use of some metrics to complement peer review, in particular citations. However, the review was very dismissive of “journal-level indicators” such as impact factors or journal level star ratings.

The panel found that impact metrics would be inadequate to replace impact case studies. However, they do state that there is the potential to use more metrics as evidence within the impact case studies.

The review recommends that metrics should not replace the environment section of REF, but that more data could be supplied.


The report lists 20 recommendations, some of which are at a sector level and some that HEIs and individuals should follow. These include:

  • REF recommendations
  • The use of DOIs for all research outputs
  • Use of ORCID for all submitted staff


A more in-depth summary including a full list of recommendations can be found in the executive summary of the report or in the HEFCE announcement of the report (