Dsit response to red tape review asks UKRI to consider alternatives to controversial tracking platform
The government has asked UK Research and Innovation to look into its approach to impact tracking, and consider ditching Researchfish from next year.
The Researchfish platform, which is used by funders and universities to track research outcomes, attracted controversy in 2022 when multiple academics accused the service of bullying, intimidation and a possible breach of data-protection laws after it reported six incidents involving posts on Twitter to UKRI.
After the controversy—known as Researchfishgate—the platform said it was “truly sorry” and took “full responsibility”. UKRI also apologised for its part in the incident.
Now, in its response to a review of red tape in research—unrelated to the controversy—the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has urged the UK’s national funder to consider ditching Researchfish altogether.
“UKRI will be asked to immediately start working on the future of data collection on the impacts of research,” the Dsit response states. “We are asking them to be ambitious and consider all alternative options, including no longer using Researchfish, from 2025 onwards.”
The edict is contained in Dsit’s response to the independent review of research bureaucracy, led by the University of Birmingham vice-chancellor Adam Tickell, which was published in July 2022.
The response, published on 9 February, recommends that funding bodies “should review the structure and content of current online forms as a priority with the aim of removing sections that are unnecessary or unclear”.
“Researchfish is currently used by many public and third-sector organisations to collect data on the outputs, outcomes and impacts of research,” it continues. “Whilst use of a common system across funders aids standardisation and avoids duplication in collection, we recognise the current system can be burdensome for users and does not make the best use of recent technological advances.”
It suggests that “more modern approaches” to impact tracking should be considered, focusing on “harvesting data that has already been compiled for other purposes and collecting more data from research organisations rather than researchers”.
“We are therefore asking UKRI to immediately initiate the next phase of their thinking about the future of research and innovation outcomes collection, with a view to both improving data insights and reducing bureaucratic burden on researchers and the system,” Dsit concludes.
A spokesperson for Researchfish said: “We share the overall aims of the review and are constantly developing Researchfish to support our customers and the wider research community. We look forward to seeing the final recommendations.”