Research Outcomes Submission Period Now Open!

Ready steady go by purplemattfish CC BY-NC-ND 2
Ready steady go by purplemattfish CC BY-NC-ND 2
Ready steady go by purplemattfish CC BY-NC-ND 2

The 2017 RCUK Research Outcomes submission period is now open until 16th March 2017.

Reporting research outcomes annually via Researchfish has now replaced most final reports on grants and is essential to enable RCUK to demonstrate the value and impact of research supported through public funding. RCUK uses information that researchers provide on the outputs, outcomes and impact of their Research Council-funded projects to report to, and engage with, both the Government and the public.

Between now and 16th March 2017 RCUK funded Principal Investigators and third year PhD students funded by RCUK will need to log on to Researchfish and update outcomes, and submit a return to confirm that information is accurate and complete. This can be done at any time during the submission period. All staff and students who need to do this have already been contacted via email, both directly by Researchfish and by RBS.

RBS will providing support throughout the submission and we will be holding a drop-in session on Wednesday 22nd February, in room 315 Northumberland Building. Please come along if you have any questions about your outcomes, submission or the Researchfish system.

If you’d like to complete your submission before then and have a question or problem, please contact your Research Funding and Policy Manager for assistance.

Please contact support@researchfish.com directly if you have any questions about the system itself.

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Researchfish RCUK Roadshow

goldfish by John Sullivan CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
goldfish by John Sullivan CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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.

Key points: 

  • 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 v04 from Researchfish on Vimeo.

Background:

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.

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Research Councils in 2013: BBSRC, STFC, Outputs and Audits

Star trails and Star tails by Joe Dsilva CC BY-NC-SA 2.0Following the 2-part series last month summarising our visit to RCUK HQ in Swindon, our Assistant Director of Research, Ruth Hattam, has written the following summary of a few of the parallel sessions which she attended. This provides insights into the work and priorities of BBSRC and STFC, as well as a summary of discussions around outputs and the Research Councils’ approach to audits and assurance.

Gerald Owenson from BBSRC outlined forthcoming funding opportunities both for responsive mode (3 calls per year) and open calls.  Three strands (basic, strategic and applied research) mapped to the scheme for new investigators, the industrial partnerships awards (IPA) and stand-alone ‘LINK’ schemes respectively.  The latter two schemes focussed on academia and industry collaboration.  IPA schemes focussed on more speculative research with industry meeting 10% of the fEC.  LINK schemes were more market-focussed with 50% of the fEC from industry.

Other initiatives highlighted were the ‘Excellence with Impact’ awards, opportunities through FAPESP (collaboration bids with Brazil) and the ISIS scheme to support academics making contact with international counterparts.

Unlike the rest of the Research Councils, impact funding is not embedded in STFC awards.  The STFC staff talked about consolidated grants (limited to bid per department per year) and consortium grants (joint consolidated proposals).  A scheme for new applicants is also available.

STFC Innovation funding was being reviewed this year but currently comprised the Innovations Partnership Scheme (IPS) (some industry collaboration), the Challenge Led Applied Systems Programmes (CLASP) and IPS Fellowships (co-funded technology transfer staff to work on knowledge exchange from STFC funded research).   The CLASP scheme was worth £1.5m and was based on collaboration with industry/other disciplines to address global challenges in the areas of Energy, Environment, Healthcare and Security.  These challenges also formed the basis of the Futures Programme, which was around initiating projects based on STFC’s strengths and capabilities through 3 routes: networks, concepts and studentships.

Output, Outcome and Income Data

There are currently two main systems where research outcomes data can be stored, Researchfish and the Research Outcomes System (ROS).  RCUK is currently working to align/exchange data between the two systems.

Dr Ian Viney from MRC gave an overview of Researchfish which had evolved from the MRC e-Val system.  Currently 6,500 researchers use Researchfish, and 9 research intensive institutions have subscribed.  Data stored is mainly related to MRC and STFC projects.

Ben Ryan from EPSRC gave an overview of ROS, which was used by the other 5 Research Councils.  ROS is open source, with both individuals and institutions able to input data on a broad range of outcomes.  Bulk uploads are possible, the system is bibliometric data friendly and can be updated/added to even several years after project completion.  From 1 January 2013 all final reports on EPSRC grants should go straight onto ROS, with other Research Councils following suit soon.  ROS will provide certain data to the Gateway to Research system. The issue of whether one research outcomes system was anticipated was raised, but not directly answered.

Audit and Assurance Processes (Gareth McDonald, Associate Director of the Audit and Assurance Services Group (AASG))

The AASG is newly formed from the merger of Research Councils UK Assurance and the Research Councils Internal Audit Service.   This was a lively last session focussing on assuring compliance with the terms and conditions of awards.  Transparency of approach was emphasised, as was the AASG aim of helping and supporting institutions rather than policing them.  Emphasis was on whether effective control systems were in place rather than the detail of individual transactions.  During an audit visit, the AASG would: assess the regularity of expenditure for around 50 grants; review the use and application of TRAC methodology (ensuring that the institution was complying with minimum requirements of TRAC and that costs calculated were appropriate);  assess the effectiveness of communications (within the institution and with RCUK); and examine the control environment.  There would be increased emphasis on procurement and value for money, but also on non-financial assurance (research integrity and ethics).

A model of ‘Pillars of Funding Assurance’ supported by the control environment at the institution was outlined, with the specific areas of scrutiny listed.

The AASG will be adopting a revised methodology for audit. Research organisations will be asked to undertake an annual self-certification process using a template based on the ‘pillars of funding assurance’.  The templates will inform the visit schedule.  Research intensives could expect the most frequent visits as they receive the majority of funding.  Institutions with low levels of RCUK funding would be audited less frequently (likely to be less than 1 visit every 2 years).  The measurement criteria and definitions were currently being established but there were likely to be three grades: substantial confidence, satisfactory and no confidence.

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