Data, digital and technology will lead the way in reducing research bureaucracy

Victoria Moody headshot
Victoria Moody

Recommendations for Jisc from the independent review of research bureaucracy aim to enhance efficiency and support researchers in their important work.

A researcher completes paperwork in their home office.

The UK Government has released its response to the independent review of research bureaucracy, with recommendations that Jisc helps improve digital infrastructure to reduce costs and free up researchers. The response notes that “Jisc plays an important role in the digital transformation as the UK digital, data and technology agency focused on tertiary education, research and innovation.”

Improving the sustainability and efficiency of the UK’s university research infrastructure is a complex challenge and Jisc will continue to find ways to improve how all organisations involved in research and development collaborate and tackle new challenges, such as collective efficiencies, guiderails for the ethical adoption of AI, and research security. Jisc has a real appetite for improving collaboration across the sector and finding solutions to areas needing improvement using data, digital, and technology.

The Tickell review acknowledges the significance of digital platforms throughout the research lifecycle and their impact on reducing research bureaucracy. It highlights solutions and opportunities to relieve bureaucratic burdens when designing and introducing new digital programmes.

The key recommendation for Jisc

Recommendation 19: For the higher education sector, Jisc should lead on the creation of sector-wide groups responsible for overseeing the development and further integration of the research information ecosystem, including research management data.

The Government response recognises the “much wider role Jisc plays within the sector including with research organisations” and we have been invited by the Department of Science Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to be a member of the Bureaucracy Review Reform and Implementation Network (BRRIN), which brings together senior representatives from across the research funding system, to deliver the recommendations of the review and maintain momentum.

Jisc has also been invited to coordinate a subgroup of the BRRIN focused on the data and digital-focused recommendations, which is in development.

We’ll continue to work to improve digital platforms and reduce costs and free up researcher time. The research sector is in an era of opportunity: freeing up precious time and resources will allow research to grow in a direction beneficial to not only researchers, but also society.

We look forward to working with the research and innovation community to support this important initiative.

Recommendation 20: For existing systems, approaches to improving the flow of data between different platforms should be explored, using for example application programming interfaces, point to point integration, and machine learning.

Recommendation 21: The review strongly encourages the use of persistent digital identifiers to drive wider adoption.

Recommendation 22: Funders and platform providers should focus in the short to medium term on the creation of common data taxonomies, and the standard questions they will ask. This would make it far easier to repurpose applications for other schemes and funders, to share assurance data, and to conduct ‘big picture’ analyses of research outcomes in the UK, which are currently inhibited by the multitude of systems and interfaces.

Recommendation 23: Funding bodies and owners of reporting platforms should review the structure and content of current online forms as a priority, with the aim of removing sections that are unnecessary or unclear.

Recommendation 24: Where relevant, there should be more active, coordinated engagement by funders with the research platform providers that will help address issues and lead to better, harmonised approaches. End-user representation should also be included.

Our commitments

Our key commitments in the Government response are that:

  • Jisc will bring actors together from the higher education and research sector to strengthen the integration of digital infrastructure, data and information across the system
  • Jisc will support the development of advanced high performance computing including exascale though long-, term capacity planning for secure, stable networking, maximising capacity, ensuring the optimal, cost-effective and efficient use of these facilities
  • Jisc will pilot within the JANET network, innovative networking, for research teams across the sector, including though the provision of edge computing, offering secure multi-tenanted distributed digital research infrastructure which reduces costs and improves efficiencies
  • Jisc will support UKRI and research stakeholders with the development of “federated” approaches across the UK digital research infrastructure in support of its efficiency, sustainability and innovation
  • Jisc will broker agreements for licensing research software and hardware across the research lifecycle, meeting demand from research stakeholders for the negotiation, licensing and procurement of solutions that support research and innovation, driving standards and reducing duplication of effort across the research sector, administrative burdens and costs
  • Jisc will bring actors together from the higher education and research sector to develop strategic approach to sustainable and ethical approaches to the collection and management of data about research management and administration, research culture and environment, supporting assessment and positive research cultures
  • UKRI, NIHR and Jisc will work together to improve data flows between different platforms, make more effective use of that data, and test the potential role of new software including AI
  • The role of persistent digital identifiers will be supported where sustainable approaches can be identified which improve the interconnectedness, reusability and accuracy of research-related data and reduce administrative burden for researchers and organisations
  • UKRI and NIHR will work with Jisc, other funders and research organisations to improve data consistency across the sector, including common taxonomies and standards to support greater interoperability
  • Funders will introduce core question sets across different funding opportunities, making applications, reviews and reporting more efficient and reducing administrative burdens
  • Stronger coordination across the sector will identify and help tackle issues on the use of digital platforms, and this will be based on the end user experience

About the author

Victoria Moody headshot
Victoria Moody
Director, higher education and research

I focus on the design and delivery and implementation of Jisc’s higher education and research strategic themes, supporting Jisc to deliver a sustainable support and services across higher education and research supported by diverse revenue streams and partnerships. My role involves senior engagement across Jisc, and with higher education, research and professional leaders in the UK and internationally. I’m also co-investigator and deputy director of the UK Data Service.