Working in partnership with the Learned Society of Wales (LSW) and the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), the RSE has responded to the independent review of research bureaucracy. The response was prepared by a working group of the Celtic Academies Alliance, comprising fellows and members of the RSE, LSW and RIA.
It is crucial that the research application and review process operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. While robust processes are needed to safeguard the use of public funds and to support high-quality research, these need to be proportionate.
The Celtic Academies Alliance response makes the following key points and suggested improvements:
The information sought during the research grant application process should be no more than that necessary to enable the research funder to make an objective assessment on the merits of the application.
The level of application bureaucracy and oversight required should be commensurate with the level of risk and funding available.
The review should consider whether a staged approach to research funding applications can be deployed more extensively in order to minimise demands on researchers and reviewers, and to expedite decision making. A one-step process could be used for small grants while a staged process would be a reasonable expectation for large strategic and collaborative grants.
All stages of the review process must involve reviewers with relevant expertise and experience in the research area. The review should consider whether the status and value of peer review can be enhanced to increase the number of reviewers and the timeliness of reviews. It should also explore the payment of reviewers, and whether there is an opportunity to pilot and test an approach where peer reviewers are paid.
Where there is a commitment to, and expectation of, a fast turnaround on research funding decision making, government and research funders need to deliver that.
There is a need for better coordination and signposting of research funding opportunities to help address the complexity of the UK’s research funding landscape.
Universities need to review their internal processes to ensure that they do not add unnecessary bureaucracy to already complex processes of application, review and post-award administration.
The quantum of research funding must remain at a level where it meets the rising costs of undertaking research.
Celtic Academies Alliance response
Professor Charlie Withers