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NIHR welcomes Government’s response to independent review of research bureaucracy

Researchers looking through microscope

Published: 09 February 2024

The Government’s response to Professor Adam Tickell’s independent review of research bureaucracy was published today. It highlights a considerable amount of NIHR work already underway to improve the researcher experience through transformation and improvement initiatives.

As the response recognises, this is not work that any one organisation can do in isolation and it highlights the collaboration across the research sector to standardise processes, cut duplication and improve data collection.

Improvement in key areas

A number of improvements to NIHR’s research funding and management processes have been progressed since Prof. Tickell’s review in 2022. The Government’s response highlights key areas of work implemented and ongoing, including:

  • Assurance: We are working with UKRI to develop an assurance framework that reduces the burden on researchers and their institutions. In practice, this means developing assurance at an organisational level and aligning processes and standards wherever possible.
  • Applying for funding: We are streamlining our funding application process to make it less daunting and reduce the burden on researchers, collecting only the information that reviewers and committees need to make a funding recommendation and optimising the pre-population of applicant information. We are adopting a more consistent approach across our programmes, personal awards and guidance, which researchers will experience through the launch of a new single awards management system in 2024.
  • Peer review: We have adopted a simplified external peer reviewer form to make completing reviews more straightforward and have implemented new approaches within NIHR committees to reduce any duplication of effort.
  • Award management: We have standardised our contractual terms where possible and proportionate to do so and deleted clauses which place unnecessary obligations on research institutions.

Prof. Lucy Chappell, NIHR Chief Executive, said:

“It is encouraging to see all the work underway to reduce research bureaucracy and the significant alignment and collaboration across the research ecosystem.

“There will always be a need for systems and processes to manage the thousands of applications we receive each year, and to account for public expenditure, but we must strive to get the balance right.

“We are fully committed to making our research funding and management processes simpler - ensuring that researchers are able to focus their time and energy on health and care research that changes peoples’ lives."

Next steps

We are committed to improving the experience for everyone who interacts with the NIHR, and we will push forward with delivering on this agenda in consultation with the research community. Feedback on our progress to date and input into the ongoing programmes can be provided through a form on our Improving your Research Experience page.


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