UK 2008 RAE Units of Assessment

RAE UOA 2008 Category to Web of Science Category Mapping 2012 (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet, 19.1 kB, info)

Scheme Scope

The UK 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) Units of Assessment (UoA) category scheme is based on the 2008 RAE conducted out of the UK. The UoA categories fall into 15 main panels and are more granularly represented across 67 separate research panels as published here:

Not all 67 panels/categories are mapped in the scheme as there were a number of RAE UoA which defied satisfactory bibliographic definition. For reasons of under-representation in publication history or overlap issues, categories not included at all in 2012 are RAE UoA 5 and 8.

All Web of Science (WoS) subject areas are represented except “RO – Multidisciplinary Sciences;” Descriptions of each panel are available online.

Scheme Type

Category mapping where RAE UoA are mapped to current WoS subject areas (WoS subject areas current as of 31 December 2012). WoS subject areas can be assigned multiple RAE UoA codes and RAE UoA codes sets can be comprised of more than one WoS subject areas.


The mapping exercise is the result of a cooperative effort between the Centre for Policy Studies in Education of the University of Leeds and Clarivate Analytics and was foundational for a bibliometric analysis commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), published in 1997. To provide a policy input appropriate to the Funding Council’s purpose, the study was required to develop indicators of international standing in research in the 69 Units of Assessment (UoAs) across which HEFCE assesses the quality of university research and allocates funds. Because HEFCE funds Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England, the focus of this work is on research in England rather than in the UK as a whole.

There are thus likely to be some differences with studies with a broader geographical focus; however, if a study looks at only part of the national research performance then it may be difficult to extend the analysis to a sound international comparison unless the same categorization can be applied to other countries. It is not valid, for example, to compare the research performance of universities in England with the national research performance of Germany and Japan. A key step in analyzing relative international research performance within a national system is to establish the relationship between the national and international maps. This would then provide two, partly independent, compass bearings across the same underlying landscape.

A further map is therefore required, and the quality and significance of any particular version of that ‘international’ map then becomes a matter for debate. One of the most widely accepted bibliometric mapping systems is that produced by Clarivate Analytics: Web of Science (WoS). Since this is a commercial product it has the distinction of being market tested as well as being academically reviewed, and its market success is widely acknowledged.

The WoS database is also categorized, and from year-to-year the number and composition of those subject areas can change, which requires regular updates (data evaluations in 2001 and 2008 and yearly category maintenance) – these updates are usually minor and the general result is confirmatory. The relationship between these categories and the RAE UoAs can be determined by measuring the extent to which they overlap. Two measures can be taken: first, the number of common journals or -- to give a relative measure -- the proportion of journals in either the RAE UoA or the WoS subject area which are in common; second, the proportion of articles in the RAE UoA which are in the overlap (common) journal set.

An important difference between WoS and RAE maps must be understood. The RAE map is inclusive -- it includes all the journals submitted by individuals to the RAE. Thus, a Math specialist working in a science department and submitted by the HEI as a member of that science UoA is very likely to have key publications in mathematical journals. There would then be an overlap between the journal lists of the science and Mathematics RAE UoAs. A special ‘multidisciplinary’ category captures the exceptional international journals which are used by many fields.

We can, nonetheless, establish peaks of commonality. We can identify the UoA (or UoAs) into which falls the highest proportion of the articles submitted to the RAE which are captured by the journals in a specific WoS subject area. And we can identify the set of WoS subject areas which contain the journals which pick up the bulk of the articles submitted to a particular UoA. What is then critical is the extent to which this conjoint mapping has unique UoA-WoS subject area links, or networks few-to-few, or becomes a tangled web of many-to-many. Its utility for relating national and international performance depends upon the degree to which the links are unique or few.

A full discussion of the method/mapping can be found here:

The mapping of WoS subject area to RAE UoA must be reviewed periodically because WoS subject areas may change from one year to the next. The WoS subject areas LOGIC and AUDIOLOGY & SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY are new to WoS for 2012. The WoS subject area GREEN & SUSTAINABLE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY is new to WoS for 2016. These have been mapped as follows:

WoS Subject Area

UK 2008 RAE UoA


20 Pure Mathematics


23 Computer Science & Informatics


12 Allied Health Professions and Studies


17 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences


25 General Engineering and Mineral & Mining Engineering


27 Civil Engineering


30 Architecture and the Built Environment


32 Geography and Environmental Studies