Edinburgh ranked 2nd in UK for quality of neuroscience and psychology research

Monday, 16 May, 2022

We are delighted to announce that, in the REF2021 exercise, Edinburgh has been ranked 2nd for the quality of our research in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience. We also received a top score of 100% 4* (world-leading) in both the impact of our research and the research environment we provide, highlighting our world-leading facilities and research ethos.

The Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF) exercise is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Edinburgh Neuroscience led the 2021 submission to unit of assessment 4: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, showcasing our shared vision to:

  • Discover new knowledge of the workings of the brain and mind across the life-course, in health and disease, and
  • Translate this into individual and societal health and wealth gains.

We are proud of our large and inclusive REF submission which comprised 203 colleagues from across Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Discovery and Clinical Brain Sciences. This represents a 61% increase in staff numbers since the previous REF in 2014, and stands testament to our long-term strategic investment in our community.

Overall, the quality and breadth of our research has been ranked as 2nd in the UK by quality, and 3rd in the UK by a combined measure of quality and breadth (up from 4th in the previous REF in 2014), according to Times Higher Education.  Highlights include:

  • 90% of our research papers were rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • 100% of the impact of our research beyond academia was rated as world-leading for reach and significance
  • 100% of the environment in which our research takes place was rated as world-leading in vitality and sustainability.
  • Our submission was the only one in the UK to achieve 100% world-leading scores in both impact and environment.

Our submission to the REF illustrated the diversity of the wider impacts that our research has had on policy, practice and wellbeing. We submitted ten ‘impact case studies’ describing contributions from understanding of, and care pathways for, stroke, delirium, motor neuron disease and functional neurological disorders, to informing funder and publisher policy on research design and reporting, practice of teaching English as a second language, understanding of drug safety profiles and government policy on blood donation. The full list of case study titles is provided below. 

Our world-class research, impact and environment are enabled and underpinned by our cutting-edge research facilities and the ongoing commitment of all our colleagues to:

  • pursuing excellence in all they do;
  • fostering an ethos of collaboration across traditional subject areas; providing high-quality research training;
  • driving innovation in methods;
  • offering research leadership within and beyond the University;
  • building mutually beneficial partnerships with industry, governments, charities, the NHS and other stakeholders.

Our success in the REF2021, as in any successful endeavour, was a team effort and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their contributions over the years. An outstanding achievement for our entire community!

More information about the REF can be found on the University of Edinburgh news item and the weblinks that it provides.


Impact case study titles:

  • Design and use of a rapid assessment tool that improves detection of delirium benefits patients and health services
  • Extending the indications for the clot-busting drug alteplase for treatment of acute ischaemic stroke increases patient survival and independent living worldwide
  • A standardised cognitive screening tool to underpin personalised care for people with motor neurone disease worldwide
  • Adding Functional Neurological Disorders to the global neurology agenda: transforming information, attitudes, diagnosis and patient experience
  • A novel teaching method based on the theory of Interactive Alignment is in widespread use in schools and universities in China and results in improved levels of English
  • Reversal in recommended standard of care of treating immobile stroke patients prevents deep vein thrombosis and improves survival after stroke
  • Improving the reproducibility of preclinical research through more rigorous and robust policy and practice at publishers, funders and industry
  • Identifying cost-effective imaging strategies to diagnose acute stroke and to prevent secondary disabling stroke
  • Uncovering a causative link between recombinant interferon beta therapy and thrombotic microangiopathy leads to international safety alerts and risk mitigation measures
  • Change in UK blood donation policy around plasma and platelets following accurate definition of vCJD transmission risks leads to simpler logistics and cost savings