RoRI reinvigorates research

Research on Research Institute (RoRI) launches to enable more strategic, open, diverse and inclusive research

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LONDON—The launch of the Research on Research Institute (RoRI), an international consortium of research funders, academic institutions and technologists working to champion the latest approaches to research on research, has just been announced.
Co-founded by the Wellcome Trust, the University of Sheffield, Leiden University and Digital Science, the RoRI consortium plans to undertake transformative and translational research on research (also known as meta-research, science of science or meta-science). By analyzing research systems and experimenting with decision and evaluation data, as well as tools and frameworks, we aim to advance more strategic, open, diverse and inclusive research.
“The Research on Research Institute is an exciting new partnership and I am delighted to join as a co-chair. The RoRI demonstrates a clear appetite from key research funders all around the world to reimagine our collective approach to how we can support and encourage excellent research,” said Chonnettia Jones, co-chair of RoRI and director of Insight and Analysis at Wellcome. “At Wellcome, we want to build a better, more creative and more inclusive research culture, ultimately ensuring we are getting the very best research. The work from the Institute will prove to be invaluable for all those working to support ambitious, diverse and open research for all."
RoRI has five objectives in support of its overall vision for transformative and translational research on research: to support, expand and build capacity for interdisciplinary, mixed-methods research on research (RoR) in the UK and internationally; to connect academic capabilities to the data and analytical resources of Wellcome, Digital Science and RoRI’s wider consortium of strategic partners; to co-design, experiment and apply new tools, indicators, funding modes, prioritization and evaluation frameworks; to critically evaluate RoR methods and support engagement with data and evidence about research systems by decision makers and society; and to create an independent space for learning, networking and collaboration between researchers, policymakers, funders & technologists.
RoRI will be based for an initial two-year incubation phase at Wellcome’s offices in London. To date, eleven strategic partners have expressed their interest in becoming part of the RoRI consortium, including private foundations, academic research institutions and public funding agencies from eight countries — Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA — as well as one pan-African partner, the African Academy of Sciences.
Together the consortium will codesign projects and share data to inform comparative analysis of research systems and cultures, and develop, test and apply novel approaches to decision-making, prioritization, allocation and evaluation.
James Wilsdon, director of RoRI and Digital Science Professor of Research Policy at the University of Sheffield pointed out that “Worldwide, interest is intensifying in how research is funded, practiced and evaluated, and in how research systems can be made more efficient, open, inclusive and impactful. Research on research isn’t new — there is a wealth of excellent work to build on — but it can be poorly joined-up and applied in policies and practices. Working with our consortium of partners, who together invest several billion pounds a year in research, RoRI has a unique opportunity to co-design new methods, and experiment with creative approaches to decision making, prioritization and evaluation.”
RoRI’s activities will include partnership projects, a rolling program of research seminars and webinars, as well as regular reports, working papers and think-pieces. All of its research methodologies and findings will be made openly available. Within RoRI, funders and academic research institutions will also be able to access and use a secure data platform, hosted and managed by Wellcome as a neutral convenor and broker. This will provide a trusted space, where funders and academic research institutions can securely share data, policies and practices for primary research and experimentation.
“Digital Science is committed to empowering all those involved in research with the right tools - either to improve their research or to improve the ecosystem that supports research,” added Daniel Hook, co-chair of RoRI and CEO of Digital Science. “RoRI is a unique ‘experiment’ that brings together perspectives from all stakeholders in research to understand how research on research can be translated to improve all aspects of global research capabilities. It is a pleasure to participate in such an exciting initiative.”
The following have expressed their interest in becoming part of the RoRI consortium: Austrian Science Fund; a consortium of Canadian funders, including British Columbia’s Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Dutch Research Council (NWO); Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); Novo Nordisk Foundation; Alfred P.Sloan Foundation; Swiss National Science Foundation; Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance; and Volkswagen Foundation. Over the coming months, RoRI hopes to expand the consortium to include additional funders, publishers, and learned and professional societies as partners.
Stated Sarah de Rijcke, co-chair of RoRI, professor in Science and Evaluation Studies and director of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University, “Science and innovation systems are changing rapidly to meet global challenges. These changes often go together with heated debates about the value and reliability of science and scholarship. At CWTS, we are thrilled to bring to RoRI our decades’ worth of experience in analyzing the research system and its connections to technology, innovation, and society. RoRI combines know-how and innovation capacity at an unprecedented scale. This creates new and exciting opportunities for research on research, and for fostering a more open, collaborative, and impactful scientific enterprise.”
RoRI has noted the publication of its first of what will become a regular series of working papers: “The 21st Century PhD: Why we need better methods of tracking doctoral access, experiences and outcomes,” by Sally Hancock and Paul Wakeling; and “AI-Assisted Peer Review: opportunities, biases and uncertainties” by Alessandro Checco, Lorenzo Bracciale, Pierpaolo Loreti and Giuseppe Bianchi
The RoRI consortium has also launched a research funding landscape tool, which has been developed by Ludo Waltman and colleagues at CWTS-Leiden, together with a report that discusses how the tool can be used to support priority setting. Working papers and further information can be found on RoRI’s website.

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