DSPI REF 2021 results

Department of Social Policy & Intervention

Today [12/05/2022] the UK funding bodies have published the results of the UK’s most recent national research assessment exercise, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. Research from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DSPI) was submitted to Unit of Assessment 20 along with social policy research from a number of other departments.

In Unit of Assessment 20, 62% of DSPI’s submission was judged to be 4* (the highest score available, for research quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance, and rigour). The research assessed in the submission contributes to a diverse range of fields within social policy, including poverty and social inequality, child and family welfare, violence prevention, political economy and welfare states.

Research from the DSPI was submitted to Unit of Assessment 20 along with social policy research from a number of other departments: Oxford Internet Institute; Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, the Rees Centre, and the Oxford Martin School.

Welcoming the results, Jane Barlow, Head of Department said: 'This is an excellent achievement and reflects the extremely high quality, breadth and diversity of research being undertaken on social policy within DSPI and more widely across the University. I should like to convey my gratitude to the faculty, researchers, research support staff, who made this result possible, and for all of their hard work in preparing for REF over the past few years.'

Some of the impacts of our research were also captured in the submission, with highlights as follows:

  1. Case study: Cash + Care: Transforming HIV outcomes for adolescents in Africa through social protection

    Over two million young people are better protected from risks of HIV and AIDS, after the University of Oxford combined ‘cash with care’ in poverty alleviation programmes - which was so impactful, it became a ‘templated’ approach for global and national policies. Social scientists saw risk behaviours fall by 50-70%, non-adherence to life saving drugs fell from 54-18%, and rates of unprotected sex fell from 49% to 3%. The results led to similar ‘cash and care’-led approaches being introduced within adolescent policy and service delivery by agencies across the world – including the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNICEF, UNAIDS and national governments including South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition, research was so impactful, it was deemed to support delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, lead researcher Lucie Cluver was invited to join the Advisory Board of the US government’s $1 billion flagship HIV-prevention programme – which saw new HIV diagnoses fall by 25-40% in the areas it was implemented. Her team were also invited to write the South African National Adolescent and Youth Health Policy 2017-2022.

  2. Case study: Preventing child abuse globally through research-driven parenting programmes

    Researchers from the University of Oxford have prevented 81,000 cases of severe child abuse after co-creating evidence-based parenting programmes which were so effective, content was replicated in 24 countries and 22 languages. Among the results was a 28% fall in abusive parenting of young children, and a 45% drop in physical and emotional abuse of teenagers. In response, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations (UN) included the programmes in their global policies and websites, and content was endorsed by UNICEF, USAID, CDC and Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

  3. Case study: Teens and Screens - shaping policy and public debate.

    Social scientists from the University of Oxford helped to ‘bust a decades-long myth’ that 'screen time' is inherently damaging to children – with insights helping to shape the UK government’s Online Harms White Paper – the blueprint for online policy. Research was cited by three branches of government - The UK Chief Medical Officer (UKCMO), the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee (DCMS), and the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee; (HCSTSC) – which dubbed it “the best quality” work available of its kind. Meanwhile, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) used Oxford’s research to inform its new guide to screen time, targeted at paediatricians and parents.