Our Business and Management submission to REF 2021 comprised 98 staff (93.5 FTE), more than double the number we submitted in REF 2014 (47, 41.4 FTE). We matched this with substantial growth in income generation (up 127%), postgraduate research student numbers (up 79%), and the volume of research produced through international collaborations (up 45% to 54%).

Our submission reflected the success of a series of targeted development strategies (e.g. Internationalisation with Impact and The Nobody Left Behind Strategy), culminating in the establishment of two new research centres — the Centre for Blue Governance and the Centre for Innovative and Sustainable Finance.

Looking forward, we are delighted to be partnering with the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) to develop a fully-funded £20 million Small Business Leadership Programme to address resilience and productivity challenges for senior SME leaders across the UK business community.

Results in REF 2021

  • 65.8% of our research outputs were judged to be internationally excellent or world-leading.
  • 100% of our impact was rated as having very considerable or outstanding reach and significance.
  • 100% of our research environment was judged as having the vitality and sustainability to produce internationally excellent or world-leading research.
  • We are ranked second among modern universities by research power for Business and Management, according to Times Higher Education.

Research areas

Our Business and Management submission brought together staff from across a wide range of business-oriented disciplines.

Our research supports all five of the University’s research themes. For example, our studies have examined the wellbeing of law staff and students, how child protection law copes with the ever-changing concept of risk, and the regulation of emerging technology.

Our Accountancy researchers investigate the behaviours, actions and responses of providers and users of accounting information, to improve standards across the industry. Their research explores how accounting can help organisations to combat financial crime, deal with the challenges of new technologies and more effectively govern themselves and how best to educate the next generation of accounting professionals around the world.

Our Economics research includes the use of mathematical models to predict how people make decisions and laboratory experiments to test those predictions. We use insights from our research to suggest how governments could better regulate the use of natural resources or risk-taking by banks, develop more effective monetary policies (such as interest rate changes) and legislate to influence people’s economic decisions and improve the overall economic outcome.

Through our Finance research, we're transforming our knowledge into research that's making an impact. We're exploring how finance impacts everything from the health of the global economy to the wellbeing of individual citizens and guarding against a repeat of recent financial crises by studying both their causes and the effects they have on almost every level of society.

Our Organisational Studies and Human Resource Management colleagues explore the nature of leadership and management, the cultures and practices which influence how people are led and work within organisations of all sizes and how to promote a more responsible business culture — encouraging businesses to adopt more ethical business practices to benefit their own organisation, consumers, society, and the planet.

Our Business and Management researchers investigate pressing issues facing organisations and governments, such as how to encourage the growth of entrepreneurs and small businesses in an uncertain global economy, how to improve sustainability across industries and how to implement new products and services.

Our Marketing research analyses existing and emerging business models and consumer segments. It covers advertising, branding, digital marketing, tourism marketing and related disciplines such as anthropology, economics, psychology and statistics. One of the main purposes of our research is to gain insights about consumer behaviour. 

Our Operational Research and Logistics experts have specialist knowledge and skills in virtualisation and business process innovation, decision science, ICT adoption and impact, quality management, six sigma and organisational excellence, business intelligence, data mining, knowledge management and system thinking. 

Impact case studies

We are especially proud of the impact of our research on society and submitted seven impact case studies to support our submission.

Our economists helped the Isle of Wight Council unlock an extra £9 million annually from central government to fund improved public services for the island’s inhabitants.
Our finance lecturers provided expert advice in major financial litigation cases relating to LIBOR manipulation and collusion that led to financial judgements ascending to $658 million made against 11 US banks.
Our Human Resource specialists supported the development of new professional HR standards in conjunction with the British Standards Institute [BSI] and the International Organization for Standardization [ISO].

Young African female tailor working

Improved effectiveness and impact of an international microfinance programme

Since 2014, we have collaborated with CARE International UK, which runs an online microfinance platform — Lendwithcare (LWC) — linking borrowers in the developing world to lenders in the developed world. A major redesign of their online platform, influenced by our work, saw the number of active lenders grow from 20,794 to 66,002 between 2014 and 2021. The LWC investor portfolio also grew from £5.5 million to over £31.5 million over the same interval. As a consequence, more than 120,000 new loans were made to low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries during this period.

Blue Governance for healthy oceans and economies 

Our Blue Governance specialists have helped improve the design and ongoing implementation of more sustainable ocean management policies, at both international and national levels. In Africa, our recommendations have been incorporated into the regional strategies of the African Union (54 countries), while at the national level we have helped design localised Blue Governance strategies that are now being implemented in various countries, including the Bahamas (Americas), Bangladesh (Asia), and Seychelles (Africa).


Worker moving boxes in a storage warehouse

Improved profitability despite growing cost of returns in online shopping

We have worked with major retailers to reduce the cost of returns in their online shopping operations. Our research has influenced senior management to implement changes in practice and processes. Total savings across members of ECR Retail Loss, a global membership organisation of major retailers, are estimated at £55 million in two years. 

Bringing Ethics Training to Drone Pilots

Killing by Drone: Implementing professional ethics training in the induction and practice of the UK’s Royal Air Force Reaper drone operators

We have worked with the RAF to introduce and deliver bespoke professional ethics training into the training of Reaper squadron crew members. RAF Reaper drones have been widely deployed in combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria since 2007. Their use has prompted media debate, public controversy, protests outside the bases involved, parliamentary questions, and an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones into ‘The UK’s Use of Armed Drones’. 

Peter Lee, Professor of Applied Ethics: I stumbled into the field of drones and military drone use almost by accident.

I was teaching at the Air Force College when I was asked to write an article on the Reaper crew members.

One of the most interesting things for me was interviewing Reaper pilots who had dropped bombs from conventional aircraft, and then later they had dropped bombs or fired laser guided missiles from the Reaper.

What fascinated me was, the brain prompted a physical response that was exactly the same, both in a manned aircraft overhead or operating a Reaper from thousands of miles away.

Drone strike statistics show that UK Reaper drone operators launched 985 missiles or bombs against ISIS between August 2014 and December 2020.

I have a long history with the Royal Air Force, which started during university, and I left to become a chaplain.

I retrained and went back quite a few years later.

So from 2007 to 2008, I served as a Royal Air Force chaplain.

During that wartime period, I was a hospital chaplain for the casualties of the Iraq war.

And it had a life changing effect on me because they were asking me questions like, "Should we be at war?

Should should Prime Minister Tony Blair have sent us to war?" I realised I was woefully ill equipped to answer the questions, to address them even for myself.

And that prompted me to to undertake a doctorate, actually, in ethics and war.

That became the bedrock of my subsequent academic career.

For many years, drones have been controversial, both in public life and in the way they've been represented in the media.

And when I was asked to write about Reaper, the brief I was given was, "Can you write something about the ethics of it?

Is it fair?" Because the crew members can be thousands of miles away from the actual aircraft when they're dropping bombs or firing missiles.

There's no chance that the crews can be attacked because they're on other continents even.

Why, when people are so far away, are they affected?

And I came up with the phrase the distance paradox.

Despite being physically far away, and it can be thousands of miles, visually, emotionally, psychologically, especially with high definition cameras and screens, they have a very intimate view of, for example, a body.

They watch in intimate detail what happens to that body.

Many of the Reaper crew members interviewed did not have a clear ethics framework within which to make their kill or no-kill decisions.

Moral injury is a form of psychological harm that was first identified in the United States soldiers and Marines after the Vietnam War.

Psychologists couldn't work out exactly why some of these veterans were displaying symptoms and behaviour that did not fit with a clinical assessment of, say, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Moral injury is concerned with how an individual's core moral values, core moral self, can be harmed or violated by things that they see and do.

It's a difference between "is it legal?" and "is it right?" To give an example, a crew had been given legal authorisation to kill a Taliban bombing placer who was laying a roadside bomb dozens of miles from from from home.

It was freezing weather and he had a young son with him and the crew refused to take the shot on that occasion because if they killed the father, as night was falling, it's likely the son would have died of exposure.

While they were legally authorised to kill the Taliban fighter, they took the decision not to fire on ethical grounds that it would have this unintended consequence of potentially killing the son.

So by having good ethics training, it helps with decision making.

And I think it it at least partially helps to protect against moral injury.

Lee delivered train-the-trainer ethics teaching to both RAF Reaper Squadrons.

I believe my work has had impact in a number of ways.

After I made my parliamentary submission in 2017, by 2018 I was invited by the Royal Air Force to to go back to both squadrons to help introduce this ethics education.

And people have told me since that it really helped them with their decision making and for some how to live with some of the things they've seen and the powerlessness that they felt.

So it hasn't changed the world, but it's made a small difference to a number of people in this crucial role then that's really important to me.

Perhaps the thing that gives me the most professional satisfaction is looking at the research that started initially just to tell the story about Reaper personnel, then noticing this moral injury and other psychological effects and the need for ethics training and education and then seeing it extend to the police and then seeing new opportunities.

And that's what makes me passionate about it, because there are so many others in fields where they are affected psychologically, emotionally and in other ways.

And if I can help others to come through that and work more effectively and live more effectively, then that will be a life and career well spent.