Published: 28 July 2022
The NIHR welcomes the publication of the final report from an Independent Review of Research Bureaucracy which has made recommendations to substantially reduce unnecessary bureaucracy in all parts of the research system.
The Review process has already had a catalysing effect due to the collaborative and consultative approach taken, and provides helpful direction on how the research system - working together – can free up the research community to concentrate on delivering high-quality research.
The Review was launched in March 2021 in recognition of the impact unnecessary bureaucracy has on the research community; diverting and hampering the work of researchers and their teams, and the productivity of research organisations.
NIHR Chief Executive and Department of Health and Social Care Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Lucy Chappell, said: “For many years, clinical research has been vital in helping us improve the health of patients and the public. In the Covid pandemic, we found new ways of doing leading-edge research from rapidly creating vaccines to identifying life-saving treatments such as dexamethasone. This research has saved thousands of lives.
“It’s crucial that we continue to build on the successes of our research ecosystem within the NHS and more widely. The Tickell Review will help us do that, with its proposals to improve the efficiency of research.
“We will continue to work collaboratively across government and with key stakeholders to address any unnecessary bureaucracy relating to our research so that we can continue to deliver world-class care.”
Work already underway to reduce bureaucracy
The NIHR is collaborating with its stakeholder community to improve and simplify research processes. Aspects of this work were highlighted in the Report, including:
- the cross-sector programme of work to ensure the Recovery, Resilience and Growth of clinical research delivery, with NIHR working alongside the NHS, regulators, medical research charities, the life sciences industry, the UK government and devolved administrations
- ongoing work to reduce unnecessary bureaucratic burden across NIHR’s end-to-end funding processes - seeking to make it easier for stakeholders to understand and work with us
- an ambitious digital, data and technology strategy - driving systems consolidation, interoperability and automation and embedding the principle of “ask-once, use multiple times” across the NIHR.
Recommendations from the Review
The Review was led by Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, and its outputs support the goals of the government’s Research and Development Roadmap which includes a commitment to removing unwarranted bureaucracy in the UK’s research system.
The final report builds upon The Review’s interim report, which identified the principles that have underpinned the approach and development of the final recommendations, and identified key facets of the system, including application processes, assurance and in-grant management.
The report draws together the overall scope and context for the Review’s work, and sets out findings and recommendations across six different aspects of the research system. These are:
- Reducing the complexity of assurance requirements: simpler asks for information, with less duplication and relying more on what organisations already do.
- Proportionate funding applications: ask for less information at the start and only ask for more as the chances of success get higher.
- More responsive grant management: there should be flexible project start dates and standard arrangements for contracts.
- Better sharing of data: improving data flows between different digital systems to minimise information asks, whilst maintaining data protection.
- Action by institutions to reduce bureaucracy: universities should work with each other and with organisations like Universities UK to manage approvals and minimise bureaucracy.
- Communicate better: express clearly why information is being asked for, and avoid ‘just in case’ gold plating.