Further funding is an ‘opportunity for step change’, as UKRN calls for new university collaborations to meet research culture goals

Research England today announced further funding for higher education research institutions to support efforts to enhance research culture, this time over three years. The UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) sees this as a unique opportunity for the sector to make a step change in research culture and calls for collaboration to meet common, strategic goals.

With member institutions across the UK, the UKRN is ideally placed to help make the step change in research culture happen. Our specific aim is to increase confidence in research, by ensuring it is robust and transparent.

Professor Marcus Munafò, current chair of the UKRN Supervisory Board, said “It’s excellent news that Research England recognise that multi-year funding is what’s needed to improve research culture. Collaborative efforts across the research sector can make the most of this cash.

We’re really looking forward to working together with universities, funders, publishers, and anyone interested in improving research culture, to address some of the key challenges.”

We would like to hear from any academic institution in the UK (current UKRN member or not) that would be interested in pooling resources to address one of the following four goals.


1.      Transparency and perceptions of uncertainty

Using learnings and increased public focus on science following the COVID-19 pandemic, we can enrich and improve mutual understanding and engagement between researchers and various publics around robustness and transparency in research.

By pooling resources, we can deepen our understanding and provide practical guidance on how transparency in research (for example open research practices) affects perceptions of uncertainty, authority, risk and generalisability.

We anticipate that this can be a collaboration between research institutions, UKRN and bodies such as Sense About Science, the Science Media Centre and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.


2.      Sustaining open research within universities

It can be difficult to embed open research practices, and support for them, within the everyday work of research institutions.

There are challenges in skills, capacity, disciplinary and community norms, infrastructure and in providing evidence of value for money. Universities of differing sizes, missions and levels of resource face different challenges.

However, by pooling some of that resource, we could strengthen a UK-wide consensus on why and how best to sustain open research within institutions, and equip a research community better able to answer those questions.


3.      Open research case studies

Through its open research programme, UKRN would like to add value to the widespread and excellent work done recently by institutions to support open research.

An example could be a UKRN-led national showcase of open research case studies across different disciplines, building on work we’re doing in that area. We want to hear from any institution that could contribute material to such a showcase.


4.      A shared research and evaluation capacity

The UK delivers world-leading research, but does not fully exploit it to inform how best to improve the research system itself. There are pockets of deep expertise and excellent practice in many institutions, and significant groups in places like Sheffield, Cardiff, Bristol and Edinburgh.

We want to bring this community together, via themed events and networking opportunities, including internationally, to develop a meta-research community of practice.

By pooling resources, this community could have the organisational infrastructure, share skills and insights, to help each institution build the evidence it needs to inform improvements in research culture.


UKRN’s role

Many factors influence the robustness and transparency of research, including equality, diversity and inclusion, and the norms and overall culture within which research takes place. We look forward to collaborating with other national entities who work to address these factors. As a contribution to that, UKRN recently hosted a series of online discussions among universities on their work to enhance research culture, and today we release the draft report from those discussions:

Edit 26 September 2022: The final report is now available, please follow the link below:

View final report – Enhancing Research Culture: UK sector priorities and challenges

If your institution is interested in pooling resources to address the goals outlined above, or in collaborating in other ways to strengthen the robustness and transparency of UK research, please contact UKRN at ukrn-admin@bristol.ac.uk