Research Excellence Framework

Our research has real-world impact.

Geography and Environment Research Excellence Framework Results

Our research contributed to multiple Units of Assessment in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, including Supporting Planning and Housing Policy Reform and the Transition Pathway Initative, and our staff were featured in four impact case studies, two in conjunction with the Grantham Research Institute. 

75% of our research received the highest (4* grade) for our research impact. This result saw our Impact Case Studies ranked 5th in the UK for Geography and Environmental Studies.

Our research has been used to influence policy designed to increase the availability of affordable housing, stimulate local economic growth, and influenced the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Our Case Studies

Supporting Planning and Housing Policy Reform Around the World 


Housing affordability presents one of the most pressing challenges today, especially for younger households in larger cities.

Research by Prof Paul Cheshire and Prof Christian Hilber underpins policy reforms aimed at improving land and housing market efficiency and affordability. Their work has fed into policy debates and informed public discussions in countries around the world, including Australia, the UK and the USA. 

In Belgium, Canada and New Zealand it has directly informed on policy reforms, including of the mortgage interest and capital deduction in Flanders (2015) and Brussels (2017), and the Ontario Housing Supply Action Plan (2019), as well as the abolition of the Auckland growth boundary announced in 2019. Read more. 

Improving the use of empirical evidence to support better returns on public expenditure and investments


Research conducted at LSE by Prof Stephen Gibbons and Prof Henry Overman has had indirect, but attributable, effects on specific policies and expenditure, as well as direct tangible effects on appraisal and evaluation methodologies and their application in a variety of settings. Specifically, it has helped improve the use of empirical evidence in developing growth policies at local, national and supranational levels, particularly through the development and implementation of improved governmental appraisal and evaluation methods. Read more. 

The Transition Pathway Initiative


The Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) is a unique partnership between a consortium of over 50 big investors with more than US$15 trillion combined assets under management/advice, a commercial data/index provider (FTSE Russell), an international NGO (Principles for Responsible Investment) and a university.

Investor-led, the aim of TPI is to assess the progress being made by large corporations on the transition to a low-carbon economy, supporting efforts by the financial sector to address climate change through capital allocation and shareholder engagement. The methodology and results are available online and completely free to access, with tutorials and other resources to promote widespread use. Read more. 

Shaping global climate change policy


Research at LSE’s Grantham Research Institute (GRI) has actively supported the adoption and implementation of the historic Paris Agreement as well as climate action by national governments (including the UK) and international institutions. GRI research has:

  • helped to create an attractive new narrative around sustainable growth and opportunities, supporting the international consensus on sustainable growth that is now driving global climate action.  
  • directly supported the implementation of the Paris Agreement by documenting good practice in climate policy and legislation, helping legislators in several countries with passing climate legislation and creating trust among parties in their joint efforts to implement the Paris Agreement. 
  • highlighted the crucial importance of international climate finance, leading to an increased flow in low-carbon investment by development banks, particular in sustainable infrastructure; and  
  • shaped climate policy in the UK, directly influencing the UK’s climate ambition and its approach to climate resilience. The UK was the first major economy to adopt a statutory net-zero emissions target.

    Read more. 

What is the Research Excellence Framework?

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; 
  • lsresearch 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.