Tickell review of research bureaucracy releases interim findings

Shaking up the peer review stage and harmonising data collection procedures across the different UK research funders are being considered

The review of research bureaucracy led by University of Birmingham vice-chancellor Prof Adam Tickell has published its interim findings.

The panel of reviews is expected to publish its recommendations in the spring but, in a newly published 27-page report, Prof Tickell gives an insight into the panel’s “direction of travel” for the last stage of the investigation.

The report says reviewers are considering “making more frequent use of two-stage applications” that would minimise the amount of upfront bureaucracy required of applicants, only “increasing the closer a researcher gets to securing a grant”.

Funders should “streamline and harmonise” their reporting and monitoring procedures and data, suggests the report.

Prof Tickell’s review is considering how “bureaucracy can be made more proportionate by making it adjustable” because “it is clear that many researchers and research support staff do not currently consider this to be the case”.

“Bureaucracy should support a research environment that blends risk and experimentation with rigour and security,” the report continues – and should, therefore, “be commensurate with the size of the risk or reward”.

A plan for institutional-level assurance assessments is also being considered in proposals to reduce project-level requirements, alongside risk-based and random sampling approaches.

Speeding up the decision-making process at the peer review stage is another area of consideration for the panel. Fifty per cent of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) grants are assessed and awarded within 4 months; 90% are awarded within 7 months – bringing these figures down could “increase the overall dynamism and responsiveness of the research system”, contends the review.

Potential solutions include a “triage process”, involving a small panel of experts at the first stage of assessment, to reject uncompetitive applications.

Read more: Government opens review into cutting red tape in HE

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