University of Sheffield gathers leading funders to set priorities for global research

  • University of Sheffield’s Research on Research Institute (RoRI) is set to become a social enterprise, with £6 million of funding to improve the evidence base on which research is funded, managed, and evaluated
  • The Institute is holding a two-day conference where leading research funders and academics from 18 countries will discuss the future of global research, and set priorities for research-on-research systems, cultures and decision-making

Leading global research funders and top academics are meeting at the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) in Bern this week (Monday 20 June 2022), to set priorities for the next decade of global research.

The event is hosted by the University of Sheffield’s Research on Research Institute (RoRI), which launched three years ago with the bold ambition to turn the tools of research back on itself in order to make global research more diverse and inclusive, funding more democratic and the results accessible to everyone.

Now, as the world is in recovery-mode from Covid-19, the Institute is about to enter its second phase by launching as a social enterprise. Around £6 million will be made available to partners to further RoRI’s mission

Social enterprise, or community interest companies under UK law, will make RoRI more agile to advance its mission to accelerate transformative and translational research on research systems, cultures and decision-making.

James Wilsdon, Director of RoRI and Digital Science Professor of Research Policy at the University of Sheffield, said: “Our event marks the start of a new chapter of collaboration between the University of Sheffield and our partners in RoRI, and is an important milestone in the development of meta-research as a field.

“The past three years of the pandemic have been an unprecedented time for researchers, scientists and academics, who have demonstrated the incredible power that accessible research has to improve lives.

“Although there has been an increase in the funding of research in the UK and elsewhere, the pandemic has also increased scrutiny of the systems that govern research, and the pressures and tensions that exist in research cultures.”

Since being co-founded by the Wellcome Trust, Digital Science and the universities of Sheffield and Leiden in the Netherlands in 2019, the Institute has carried out a diverse portfolio of projects, and has produced:

  • Working papers seeking to answer long-standing concerns about flaws and biases in the way research funding is allocated, and how these can be mitigated against by changes to selection and review processes.
  • The Experimental Funders Handbook, to help research funders to design experiments with prioritisation, allocation and evaluation.
  • The development of FAIRware, an online workbench to support the production of research that is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Re-Usable.

Now, the Institute is co-designing a fresh wave of projects with its partners to support research funders and other organisations around the world in making research more efficient and effective for all.

Professor Wilsdon said: “The global research community responded with speed and at scale to the emergence of Covid-19, with around 8.6 per cent of all research outputs in 2021 related to the pandemic. This reflected a dramatic mobilisation of capacity, in the face of a crisis and raises fundamental questions about the funding and organisation of research.

“Over the past two years, the partnerships we’ve built, and the progress we’ve made, reinforces the case for taking research on research to the next level – and for the need for collaborative platforms and soft infrastructures like RoRI to support and amplify these efforts. With its partners, RoRI wants to better these structures and networks of collective intelligence-to ensure greater agility, responsiveness, and resilience in the face of future crises and uncertainties.”

Marc Schiltz, CEO of Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR – Luxembourg National Research Fund) and President of Science Europe, said: “Research funders help to drive innovation in the global research landscape, and we should strive to ensure that this innovation is done in a transparent, open, and thorough manner.

“The FNR believes that the activities, processes, and output of research funders should be put to the same academic rigour used in the research we fund, and we therefore fully support RoRI’s activities in Research on Research. The collaboration and creativity expressed in this consortium will help develop the tools and mindset needed to enhance the funding, the practice, the evaluation and the communication of research and science in general.”

Vice-President for Research at the University of Sheffield, Professor Sue Hartley OBE, said: “Many organisations, including the University of Sheffield, RoRI and its partners, recognise that open research is an important part of the commitment to enabling and promoting research excellence across our communities.

“It is vital that not only universities and research institutions, but publishers, infrastructure providers, funders and researchers themselves come together to reflect on our own practice, and the systems that govern who is able, and can access the research that has the power to change lives. RoRI is our opportunity to support innovation in global research and improve research cultures, towards concrete and evidence-informed solutions.”

Join the event on Monday 20 June 20202 from 14:00-17:00 BST, to witness the launch of the next phase of RoRI.

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