Research on research

Research on research (also known as meta-research, the science of science and meta-science) is the study of research itself.

It’s an evolving discipline that aims to produce evidence on how to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, fairness and impact of research. 

Why it’s important to us

Wellcome, and the research we support, aims to be a social good. We’re acutely aware of the influence we have on research culture and systems. This influence can be used positively to drive change, and we want to help build a better research culture – one that is creative, inclusive and honest.

However, our own systems can have unintended consequences – such as sometimes creating a focus on outputs and increased productivity at the expense of how research is achieved. This is often underpinned by the decisions we make and how we make them at the strategic and individual funding level. 

Research on research is important to help us better understand and improve our own funding practices and policies, and those of other funders.

What we’re doing

Research on Research Institute 

We’ve launched the Research on Research Institute – an international consortium of research funders, academic institutions and technologists working together to develop more open, inclusive and effective research systems.

Co-founded with the universities of Sheffield and Leiden, and Digital Science, the consortium will carry out transformative and translational research on research.

Specific activities include:

  • the creation of a secure data platform to help partners share research on research data, policies and practices 
  • partnership projects
  • a programme of seminars and webinars
  • regular reports, working papers and think pieces. 

All research methodologies and findings will be openly available. 

Research on Research Awards

In May 2018, we launched a funding call to support researchers using multidisciplinary methods to improve how research is funded, conducted and evaluated. 

The four grants we awarded are directly applicable to the funding sector and explore: 

  • the criteria that grant reviewers use, and how they weight those judgements
  • the feasibility of registered reports funding
  • how to effectively evaluate collaborative research
  • the development of digital tools to analyse statistical and image manipulations.

Improving how Wellcome makes funding decisions

We’ve commissioned research to understand how Wellcome and other research funders can make better funding decisions. 

This includes looking at:

  • current and alternative decision-making pathways
  • who is involved in decision-making, including their roles and experiences
  • the quality of decision-making, including bias. 

More information about this work will be available mid-2020.

More information