ICR now top in clinical medicine too in new REF ranking

09 January 2015

The new Times Higher Education rankings based on the Research Excellence Framework again put The Institute of Cancer Research, London, first overall and for biological sciences, and this time also put us top in clinical medicine, up from joint fourth in the original table.

The previous rankings were determined by institutions’ average quality score for their research, but the new system also takes into account the proportion of eligible staff they submitted, to produce a combined measure of research intensity.

The ICR performs even more strongly in the new rankings because it submitted 95% of eligible staff – much higher than most universities did.

The ICR is now ranked top in both the units of assessment it entered – biological sciences and clinical medicine. It is among a select group of fewer than 10 institutions to come top in multiple units of assessment.

The results further underline the ICR’s track record as one of the world’s most influential cancer research organisations, and the UK’s leading academic centre.

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, assesses all 155 accredited academic institutions in the UK and is the biggest, most detailed, evaluation of research quality in the world. It was previously carried out in 2008.

The ICR was ranked top of REF 2014 overall by The Times Higher Education league table – viewed as the definitive ranking of universities – but there was criticism from some quarters about the methodology used.

The former ranking system was based on each institution’s grade point average (GPA) for the research they submitted, but there were concerns that some institutions had gamed the system by selecting only their best research for inclusion.

In the new intensity-based ranking scheme, institutions are ranked according to their overall GPA weighted by the proportion of eligible staff they submitted – a score called the intensity-weighted GPA.

All of the ICR’s research was assessed as having had outstanding or very considerable impact in terms of its reach and significance, placing it first when ranked by impact, and it was ranked joint first on the quality of its research papers.

The results reflect not only performance since the last assessment in 2008, but 25 years of excellent science and team working to achieve translation into the clinic.

Dr Barbara Pittam, Director of Academic Services at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “To come top of the REF in 2014, and also its predecessor in 2008, was a massive achievement for the ICR, and it’s fantastic to see that we remain top when research intensity is taken into account.

“We submitted 95% of our eligible researchers, which is among the highest rates for all institutions taking part in the REF, and demonstrates the depth of quality of our research as a whole.

“The ICR’s REF submission was a massive undertaking and a huge team effort. The fact we are ranked first shows that our research strategy, which combines a rigorous academic focus on the causes and molecular mechanism of cancer with a relentless drive to translate our work for patients, really works.”