BEIS announces a review of research bureaucracy

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy review aims to cut through the research red tape

Following the government’s announcement last year that it intends to reduce “bureaucratic burdens” on universities, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced a review of research bureaucracy.

The review will seek to “free up researchers to pursue world class research” and aims to:

  • provide recommendations to help reduce time-consuming administrative demands
  • identify practical solutions to bureaucratic issues faced by researchers across the UK such as overly complicated grant forms, a lack of clarity over funding available, and having to provide the same data multiple times in different formats to different funders

Amanda Solloway, minister for science, research and innovation, said: “The UK is home to some of the world’s leading scientists and researchers and their response over the past year to the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the vital need for them to be able to carry out their ground-breaking work at pace.

This review will identify how we can free up our brightest minds from unnecessary red tape so they can continue making cutting-edge discoveries – Amanda Solloway

“Their discoveries have created much needed medical treatments and vaccines which are saving lives across the world… it’s crucial that we create a research environment that harnesses this same scientific speed and endeavour.

“This review will identify how we can free up our brightest minds from unnecessary red tape so they can continue making cutting-edge discoveries, while cementing UK’s status as a science superpower.”

Leading the review

ProfAdam Tickell, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex, heads the review tasked with identifying why bureaucracy has increased in R&D.

Tickell commented: “Ultimately, this should translate to making a real difference to the work of our research teams and that will be the true test of whether we have succeeded.”

Following the R&D Roadmap

The review forms the next phase of the government’s R&D Roadmap, published in July 2020, which set out the government’s vision for the future of UK R&D, including the goal of minimising bureaucracy while maintaining flexibility, diversity and necessary accountability.

Ottoline Leyser, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said the research agency “welcomes this independent and system-wide review to enable a reduction in unnecessary research bureaucracy, wherever it is found”.

This approach will drive meaningful change across the sector, promoting diversity and empowering researchers with the time they need to pursue ambitious research – Professor Julia Buckingham

Prof Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of Brunel University London, said: “This approach will drive meaningful change across the sector, promoting diversity and empowering researchers with the time they need to pursue ambitious research. The outcomes of this review will further increase the attractiveness of UK universities as partners for global collaboration.”

‘Slashing red tape’

Adam Clarke, policy manager for the Russell Group, said: “The research response to Covid-19 has shown clearly how universities and their partners can work quickly to deliver breakthroughs that save lives.

“This bureaucracy review is an opportunity to learn lessons from the pandemic and look at the wider system to remove unnecessary barriers that make it more difficult for researchers to turn world-changing ideas into life-changing advances.

…we need an ambitious funding settlement for R&D and a system that can move quickly and flexibly to support cutting-edge work. Slashing red tape is an essential part of this picture – Adam Clarke

“If we want a research-led recovery, we need an ambitious funding settlement for R&D and a system that can move quickly and flexibly to support cutting-edge work. Slashing red tape is an essential part of this picture, but we also need to see the government’s very welcome words on the value of science and research being backed up with investment, not cuts.

“We look forward to working closely with the review to see how we can boost low bureaucracy funds such as QR and unleash the creative potential of the UK’s researchers.”

The system-wide review will conclude by early 2022, and interim findings are due to be published this autumn.

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