REF 2021

Research Excellence Framework 

We are proud of our department’s contribution to three successful Units of Assessment.

The Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science is a multi-disciplinary department. Our strengths lie in our expertise across social psychology and behavioural science. Our faculty contribute to a wide-range of disciplinary agendas, working with policymakers, think-tanks, NGOs and professional bodies around the world, from the global North to the global South. 

This is evident in the research contributed to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) where we submitted to four Units of Assessment (UoA), including Business and Management, Social Work and Social Policy, Sociology and Economics. In addition, our staff were featured in 4 impact case studies.

This result saw the Unit of Assessment Social Work and Social Policy, of which we contributed nearly half of our outputs, ranked 1 overall, with 70% of outputs rated 4*.

A further third of outputs were submitted to UoA 17 (Business and Management), where 68% of outputs were rated 4* with an overall GPA of 3.56. Our remaining outputs were submitted to Sociology, which had an overall GPA of 3.37. We are proud of our department’s contribution to three successful Units of Assessment.


Our research investigates the human mind and behaviour in society. We seek to understand and influence how people are impacted by social, cultural, political, organisational, economic, historic and evolutionary developments, and how these impact individual and societal health, wellbeing, inclusion and diversity within the key issues of today.

Our ground-breaking work generates high levels of public interest, a fact reflected in its frequent coverage by national and international media. It responds to that interest through an extensive programme of public lectures, attracting high-profile speakers such as Cass R. Sunstein and Richard H. Thaler, Dambisa Moyo and Michael Tomasello.

The Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science encourages its academic staff to engage with policymakers, and local and international stakeholders to positively support outreach activities, sustained through our research projects.

Find out more about all our areas of research expertise and our current research themes.

Impact Case Studies

The Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science submitted four Impact Case Studies, demonstrating the impact of our research in the UK, the Global South and around the world.

Measuring and improving safety culture in the aviation industry


By developing a methodology for systematically measuring safety culture in air traffic management, LSE research by Dr Tom Reader has helped to strengthen European air safety. Read more. 

Analysing and learning from healthcare complaints


LSE researchers Dr Alex Gillespie and Dr Tom Reader have developed a tool for systematically analysing patient complaints, helping healthcare organisations to reduce errors and improve outcomes. Read more.

Supporting bottom-up development in cities in the developing world 


LSE research by Professor Sandra Jovchelovitch in Brazil’s favelas has demonstrated the importance of community-level actors to reduce urban social exclusion. Read more.

Understanding and improving subjective wellbeing

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LSE research by Professor Paul Dolan and Professor Lord Richard Layard has significantly contributed to promoting subjective wellbeing as a central objective of public policy, and provided new tools to support its measurement. Read more.


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system by which the UK’s higher education funding bodies assess the quality of research in publicly funded UK higher education institutions (HEIs).  REF 2021 comprised three elements:  

  • academic outputs, comprising a portfolio based on the FTE of REF-eligible staff submitted; 

  • research impact, submitted as a number of impact case studies (ICSs) in proportion to the total FTE of REF-eligible staff submitted;  

  • research environment, comprising the total number of research degrees awarded between 2014 and 2020, total research income received over the same time period, and an environment statement detailing how the submitting unit(s) supported research and impact over the period.

Outputs, impact and environment were weighted 60:25:15 respectively.  All three elements were graded on a scale from 0 (unclassified) to 4* (world leading) and the results were published as quality profiles showing the percentage of outputs, impact and environment considered to meet each of the starred levels.  Submissions were invited to 34 Units of Assessment (UoAs); LSE made 15 submissions to 13 UoAs across the SHAPE subjects.  

For REF2021, HEIs were required to submit research outputs by all eligible members of staff.  Each submitted member of staff could submit between one and five outputs, with the total number of outputs per UoA calculated as total FTE of staff multiplied by 2.5.   

Staff were eligible for REF2021 where they were on a teaching-and-research or research-only contract of at least 0.2 FTE on 31 July 2020 and had a substantive connection to the submitting HEI.  Research-only staff also had to be classified as independent researchers.  HEIs were also required to identify which eligible staff had significant responsibility for research.  LSE submitted 100% of its staff meeting these definitions, but other HEIs had eligible staff who did not have significant responsibility for research and hence had a submission rate of less than 100%. 

See here for a full glossary of REF terminology.