The changing role of funders in responsible research assessment: progress, obstacles and the way ahead

“Encouraging interim results of different vaccine trials reflect the speed, innovation and dedication that the research community has shown in its response to Covid-19. But the pandemic has also shone a spotlight on the inner workings of research, and in lots of ways—good and bad—has intensified scrutiny of how research is funded, practiced, disseminated and evaluated, and how research cultures can be made more open, inclusive and impactful.


The uncertain possibilities that flow from this moment follow a period in which concern has intensified over several long-standing problems, all linked to research assessment. As attention shifts from describing these problems, towards designing and implementing solutions, efforts are coalescing around the idea of responsible research assessment (RRA). This is an umbrella term for approaches to assessment which incentivise, reflect and reward the plural characteristics of high-quality research, in support of diverse and inclusive research cultures.

This working paper explores what RRA is, and where it comes from, by outlining fifteen initiatives that have influenced the content, shape and direction of current RRA debates. It goes on to describe some of the responses that these have elicited, with a particular focus on the role and contribution of research funders, who have more freedom and agency to experiment and drive change than many of the other actors in research systems.

The paper also presents the findings of a new survey of RRA policies and practices in the participant organisations of the Global Research Council (GRC)—most of which are national public funding agencies—with responses from 55 organisations worldwide….”