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Fishing with the same rod

ResearchfishLast month it was announced that from September 2014 all seven research councils will use the Researchfish tool to collect information from their researchers. As the questions Researchfish will ask researchers are revealed, MRC Evaluation Officer Ellen Charman explains what the move means for MRC-funded researchers.

In a couple of months, the remaining research councils will be joining the MRC and STFC in using Researchfish to collect information on the outputs and impact of research.

So what? I hear you ask… Well, practically, there is little change for MRC researchers. The system remains open to enter data at any time and this year’s data submission period will go ahead as planned, opening on 16 October and closing on 13 November.

To take into account the addition of five extra research disciplines, there will be some minor changes to the question set.The majority of these changes are to the guidance and help text; however there are a few additional questions where we’ll ask for more detail, for example, the type of further funding and the purpose of an engagement activity.

There is also a new opportunity for you to tell us about your creative side, which Professor Peter Openshaw at Imperial College London might have found helpful last year when letting us know about his 2012 stage performance  — ‘Our germs, our guns: an uneasy peace’ — at the Albert Hall Theatre in Brussels.

This harmonisation is an important step in simplifying the process for those who hold grants from more than one research council. Everyone’s time is valuable, so instead of labouring over two different systems, researchers will now be able to enter an output just the once and link it to grants from different councils.

This is already the case if you also hold grants from other funders such as Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, National Institute of Health Research and the Scottish Funding Council. We are also looking at simple ways in which universities can import this information into their systems.

On a broader note, this approach will enable funders to more easily put together the individual jigsaw pieces to get a holistic picture of the research landscape. It will help us to gain an unprecedented view of the progress, quality and impact of the research we fund, giving us an insight into what works well and where there might be missing pieces.

Often the impact of research is realised through the combination of several investments over time, and harmonising the use of Researchfish will help us to understand how the outputs and outcomes from research translate into significant long-term benefits for the economy and society, some of which are showcased in RCUK’s timelines of research.

And importantly, with another Government spending review expected in 2015, it will help us continue to make the case for sustained Government investment in research. That way you can spend your time doing what you do best — ground-breaking science — producing a wealth of outputs and making an impact*.

Ellen Charman

*Just don’t forget to enter them in Researchfish!

Case studies based on data collected last year through Researchfish are now available on the MRC website. The full 2013/14 Outputs, outcomes and impact report will be published shortly.

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