Research on Research: New institute to advance ‘vital’ meta-research

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Devonyu)
(Image: Getty/Devonyu)

Related tags: Research

The recently-launched Research on Research Institute aims to deliver “transformative and translational research on research systems, cultures, and decision-making,” the need for which “has never been more vital,” says director.

Co-founded by the Wellcome Trust, the universities of Sheffield and Leiden, and Digital Science, the Research on Research Institute (RoRI) is an international consortium of research funders, academic institutions, and technologists.

The institute recently launched to conduct translational research on research, also known as meta-research, science of science, or meta-science. For the first two years – the ‘incubation phase’ – RoRI will be based at Wellcome’s offices in London.

James Wilsdon FAcSS, director of the Research on Research Institute (RoRI), and digital science professor of research policy at the University of Sheffield, said the four founding members came from a variety of backgrounds to arrive at the same destination.

“From Wellcome’s perspective as a funder, there was a growing recognition that research on the research system itself could help to ensure that their investments are as strategic and effective as possible, in terms of delivering on their scientific, social, and global health goals,”​ Wilsdon explained.

Digital Science, a UK-based technology company, joined to ‘bridge and translate’ academic work into policies, practices, and institutions, he said.

Similarly, Wilsdon said among the university partners, Sheffield and Leiden, there was “a desire to see that process of translation and application accelerate​.”

“So, one by one we arrived at this same place,”​ he said – sharing a conviction that research on research (RoR) “has never been more vital.”

Research on Research

Funders, universities, publishers, and researchers will need improved research on research capacity over the next decade to navigate operational changes, according to Wilsdon.

Among these changes include a greater emphasis on challenge-directed research, open data, collaboration, as well as diversity, inclusion, integrity, and reproducibility.

“Our goal is to champion and deliver transformative and translational research on research systems, cultures and decision-making,”​ said Wilsdon, “and through that research, to support more strategic, effective, open, diverse and inclusive research cultures and institutions.”

RoRI’s initial focus has been onboarding research funders as strategic partners, including private foundations and public funding agencies from ten countries to date.

The group met as a consortium for the first time last week to kick off project designs and the development of systems and protocols for data-sharing.

“Within a few months, we should be underway with various streams of comparative analysis and experimentation to develop, test, and apply novel approaches to research decision-making, prioritization, allocation, and evaluation,”​ said Wilsdon.

Next steps involve engaging with publishers and societies to build a “more holistic picture of how the different moving parts in any research system interact,”​ he said, “and how issues like openness, reproducibility and incentives can only be effectively tackled with that system-wide view.”

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