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    Sandpits can develop cross-disciplinary projects, but funders need to be as open-minded as researchers

Sandpits can develop cross-disciplinary projects, but funders need to be as open-minded as researchers

The research “sandpit”, where a cross-disciplinary group of academics and practitioners come together for a short time to create new projects around a given theme, is gaining ground as a way to foster innovation and creativity in research design. While sandpits can spark ideas for novel projects better suited to tackling grand challenges and urgent questions, research from Kate […]

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    It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts: how the process of applying for competitive grants is of benefit to researchers

It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts: how the process of applying for competitive grants is of benefit to researchers

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.” So goes the famous saying by Pierre de Coubertin, the father of modern Olympic Games. But does the same apply for competitive research grants? Charles Ayoubi, Michele Pezzoni and Fabiana Visentin report on their study which finds that simply taking part in an application process […]

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    Linguistic analysis reveals the hidden details of research grant proposal peer review reports

Linguistic analysis reveals the hidden details of research grant proposal peer review reports

Despite peer review panels being the most common way of selecting applicants for research funding, little is known about how selections are made. New methods for large-scale text analysis allow for review panels’ written reports to be analysed and studied for patterns. Peter van den Besselaar and Ulf Sandström show how the frequency of positive and negative evaluation words […]

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    Research data should be available long-term…but who is going to pay?

Research data should be available long-term…but who is going to pay?

There is now a broad consensus that sharing and preserving data makes research more efficient, reproducible and potentially innovative. As such, most funding bodies now require research data to be stored, preserved, and made available long-term. But who is going to pay for this to happen? Marta Teperek and Alastair Dunning outline how the costs of long-term data preservation […]

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    Predatory publishers threaten to consume public research funds and undermine national academic systems – the case of Brazil

Predatory publishers threaten to consume public research funds and undermine national academic systems – the case of Brazil

An unintended consequence of the open access movement, predatory publishers have appeared in many countries, offering authors a quick and easy route to publication in exchange for a fee and usually without any apparent peer review or quality control. Using a large database of publications, Marcelo S. Perlin, Takeyoshi Imasato and Denis Borenstein analyse the extent of this problem […]

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    Doing research for (and not on) development: some important questions for the Global Challenges Research Fund

Doing research for (and not on) development: some important questions for the Global Challenges Research Fund

The Global Challenges Research Fund has an impressively wide-ranging research agenda, covering a range of development issues. But as well as funding research on development, Ajoy Datta argues the fund should promote understanding of how to undertake research for development too. This requires academics to have specific skills and experience of working effectively with colleagues and partners in the […]

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To move towards a more open science, we must free the data

Data sharing is a key principle of open science, and research funders are increasingly including this as a condition of grant awards. Despite this, Jessica Couture reports on research that found little more than a quarter of relevant research projects to be compliant. While there are valid reasons for certain data not to be made available – its sensitivity […]

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Funder open access platforms – a welcome innovation?

Funding organisations commissioning their own open access publishing platforms is a relatively recent development in the OA environment, with the European Commission following the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation in financing such an initiative. But in what ways, for better or worse, do these new platforms disrupt or complement the scholarly communications landscape? Tony Ross-Hellauer, Birgit Schmidt and […]

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    Gender equity in health research funding: what do we know, what do we wish we knew, and where do we go from here?

Gender equity in health research funding: what do we know, what do we wish we knew, and where do we go from here?

Research shows women continue to face systematic disadvantages in research funding competitions, publishing, hiring, and promotion. Zena Sharman considers what can be done to foster gender equity, including piloting unconscious bias training and developing a clear definition of what is meant by equity and how that informs strategic and operational work.

At the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research we […]

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    The benefits of open access books are clear but challenges around funding remain

The benefits of open access books are clear but challenges around funding remain

As part of Academic Book Week 2018, last week Springer Nature hosted an event exploring open access books featuring representatives from the researcher, funder, and publisher communities. Mithu Lucraft reports on the presentations and panel discussions which revealed that the benefits of publishing open access books are clear, with more downloads, citations, and online mentions, in addition to an […]

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    Hitting the QR sweet spot: will new REF2021 rules lead to a different kind of game-playing?

Hitting the QR sweet spot: will new REF2021 rules lead to a different kind of game-playing?

Today marks 999 days until the expected deadline for submissions to REF 2021. Universities’ preparations are already well under way, with additional guidance published last autumn in the form of new REF rules designed to reduce game-playing behaviours among institutions. However, as Simon Kerridge observes, the rule changes may have introduced, or rather enhanced, some hidden dangers around universities’ […]

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    False investigators and coercive citation are widespread in academic research

False investigators and coercive citation are widespread in academic research

A recent study has revealed widespread unethical behaviour in academic research. Allen Wilhite focuses on two activities in particular; the addition to funding proposals of investigators not expected to contribute to the research, and editors who coerce authors to add citations to manuscripts even though those citations were not part of the scholars’ reference material. Research institutions, funders, rankings bodies, and […]

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    The RAE/REF have engendered evaluation selectivity and strategic behaviour, reinforced scientific norms, and further stratified UK higher education

The RAE/REF have engendered evaluation selectivity and strategic behaviour, reinforced scientific norms, and further stratified UK higher education

The UK’s periodic research assessment exercise has grown larger and more formalised since its first iteration in 1986. Marcelo Marques, Justin J.W. Powell, Mike Zapp and Gert Biesta have examined what effects it has had on the submitting behaviour of institutions, considering the intended and unintended consequences in the field of education research. Findings reveal growing strategic behaviour, including […]

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    Adoption of open access is rising – but so too are its costs

Adoption of open access is rising – but so too are its costs

Options available to authors to make their work open access are on the rise. Adoption of open access itself is also rising, and usage of open-access materials is similarly increasing. However, alongside rising access levels another, less positive rise can also be observed: the costs of open access are increasing and at a rate considerably above inflation. Stephen Pinfield […]

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    Why has no other European country adopted the Research Excellence Framework?

Why has no other European country adopted the Research Excellence Framework?

Most European countries have followed the UK’s lead in developing performance-based research funding systems (PRFS) for their universities. However, what these countries have not done is adopt the same system, the Research Excellence Framework being its most recent iteration. Instead, many use indicators of institutional performance for funding decisions rather than panel evaluation and peer review. Gunnar Sivertsen has […]

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    How to survive the cruel world of peer-reviewed funding applications

How to survive the cruel world of peer-reviewed funding applications

With government funding and industry support for research either static or falling, the grant funding environment has become increasingly competitive. Most funding goes to those in secure employment who have been in academia for some time, making the outlook particularly grim for early-career researchers. Jonathan O’Donnell sets out some practical advice for early-career researchers competing for grant funding; starting […]

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    The Global Challenges Research Fund: £1.5bn commitment is impressive in its ambition but would benefit from a tighter strategic focus

The Global Challenges Research Fund: £1.5bn commitment is impressive in its ambition but would benefit from a tighter strategic focus

The Global Challenges Research Fund aims to ensure UK research plays a leading role in addressing problems faced by developing countries. To Tina Fahm of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, the fund represents a welcome increase in the UK’s ambition in development research, drawing on well-established mechanisms for identifying research excellence and promoting interdisciplinary work on complex development […]

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    Barriers to research collaboration: are social scientists constrained by their desire for autonomy?

Barriers to research collaboration: are social scientists constrained by their desire for autonomy?

Researchers everywhere are being pushed to collaborate. Individual academics are being urged to join teams, small teams are encouraged to merge with others to become bigger teams, and institution-wide and inter-institutional collaborations are spreading. With potential benefits including increased chances of funding, visibility, and impact, why, asks Jenny M. Lewis, are social scientists not embracing collaboration more? Might it […]

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    Government policies favouring research for economic returns can overlook existing strengths in arts and humanities

Government policies favouring research for economic returns can overlook existing strengths in arts and humanities

There is an argument that the best way for governments to allocate resources for research is to prioritise those areas most likely to deliver economic returns. Andrew Gibson and Ellen Hazelkorn explain how, shortly after its Great Recession, Ireland prioritised research fields aligned with industrial sectors rather than disciplinary excellence or societal challenges. By starting with an orientation toward […]

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    Peer review processes risk stifling creativity and limiting opportunities for game-changing scientific discoveries

Peer review processes risk stifling creativity and limiting opportunities for game-changing scientific discoveries

Today, academics must prepare written proposals describing the research they wish to conduct and submit them to funding agencies for evaluation – a process known as peer review. According to Don Braben and Rod Dowler, the current peer review process actually serves as a blocker to more radical research, stifling creativity and limiting opportunities for game-changing discoveries. Obviously peer review should not be abandoned entirely, but […]

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