Earlier this week I went down to London to learn all about Researchfish, the system for collecting outcomes data recently adopted by all UK Research Councils. Here are some things I learned.
- Researchfish is an online service which enables funders to track the impacts of their investments, and researchers to tell funders about the outcomes associated with their research grants.
- Principal Investigators (PIs) create an account then input information about their outcomes and associate these with their grants by dragging and dropping on Researchfish. The user interface is relatively straightforward.
- PIs can do this any time throughout the year (or assign a “delegate” to do it for them) but there is usually a one-month annual “submission period” where the information must be formally submitted to the funder. Only the PI can submit.
- The RCUK submission period runs from 16th Oct to 13th November 2014.
- All PIs with current grants as well as those which ended up to 5 years ago must submit a return to RCUK using Researchfish in this submission period by using the red “submit” button when it becomes available.
- Sanctions will be implemented against PIs who do not submit a return. This includes an inability to apply for any further funding from RCs as well as withholding payments.
- Two types of outcomes will be collected: “Common” outcomes, generic to all funders and grant types (e.g. publications, further funding, engagement activities, collaborations) and “Additional” outcomes which are specific to each funder. These additional outcomes are compulsory fields.
- Lots of help and support is available: Researchfish has produced a short video (see below) on how to upload outcomes and they also host regular webinars for PIs; RCUK has produced a presentation highlighting the benefits of collecting outcomes as well as how to use Researchfish, and we will be providing training for Northumbria PIs next Wednesday 15th October between 1-2pm (relevant PIs should already have received an invitation to this).
Researchfish has been used since 2008/09 to collect outcomes data from MRC/STFC and is now used by some 90 funding organisations around the UK. Prior to moving to Researchfish most RCs used the in-house developed Research Outcomes System(ROS) to track and report on research outcomes associated with grants. Realising it was unsustainable to use two separate and incompatible systems to record research outcomes, RCUK’s Research Outcomes Harmonisation project was established and in June this year RCUK announced that Researchfish had been chosen as the sole outcomes collection and reporting service for all Councils.
The biggest number of complaints received by Researchfish so far relates to PIs having to re-enter lots of data already collected by ROS. This was because not all data could be easily mapped from ROS into Researchfish fields, e.g. Further Funding in ROS was free text entry, whereas in Researchfish there are multiple categories available. This meant in many cases it was difficult if not impossible to import data.
University research managers are also lobbying RCUK to allow access to outcomes uploaded by their university’s PIs on Researchfish. Currently HEIs need to pay an additional subscription to access this data, although RCUK will publish submitted outcomes via its Gateway to Research system.