The last official UK-wide assessment of all university research, the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), found that the University of Oxford had the largest volume of world-leading research in the country. This research sets other academic agendas around the world.

We are pleased to have contributed to the University’s top-ranked submission to the 2014 REF. A strictly mono-disciplinary research assessment exercise like the REF presents obvious challenges for a multidisciplinary department such as ours, but by submitting our faculty across multiple units of assessment, we were able to participate fully in this national assessment of research excellence.

Multidisciplinarity has always been an important part of our academic identity. We believe it is only possible to understand the rich and complex interactions of the Internet and society by approaching it from many different disciplinary perspectives; from political science to computer science, from philosophy to law, from geography to economics, from sociology to psychology and education. Only in this way can we hope to interrogate every aspect of this complex and fascinating system, and ultimately to ‘understand life online’. The 2014 REF proved our unique multidisciplinary strength.

For the 2014 REF OII faculty were returned to nine units of assessment, namely Sociology, Political Science, Economics, Computer Science, Philosophy, Psychology, Geography, Law and Education, spanning all four academic divisions of the University. We were thereby able to submit our faculty for assessment within the contexts of their own particular disciplines, while not having the department as a whole ‘captured’ by any single discipline.

We are proud to have been part of such a brilliant performance by the University, demonstrating that our faculty operate at the cutting edge of their academic disciplines by being included in the submissions of such high-ranking units of assessment. Research is fundamental to all our activities; methodological innovation and growing capacity in data science feed directly into our internationally renowned teaching programme and our collaborations across the university, while generating evidence that shapes public policy and service delivery at both national and international levels of government.