Improving the UK’s research culture and environment – a review of the landscape

​Universities UK, UK Research and Innovation and Wellcome Trust are inviting tenders for a research study, 'Concordats and agreements review'. The aim of the project is to provide evidence that will help stakeholders improve the ways that key initiatives affect research culture and environment.

There is momentum behind a range of important initiatives to improve the culture and environment in which UK research takes place. These initiatives have grown organically, in response to challenges and opportunities, and cover a range of issues to support researchers and their activities.

These initiatives have diverse approaches to engagement and oversight, different levels of maturity, overlapping scope, and inconsistent monitoring of take-up, impact, or burden. There is also no assessment of their collective effect on the research culture(s) and environment(s) in the UK, nor of any gaps in their remit. There is now an opportunity to gather evidence on the effects of these initiatives and how they interact.

Collecting evidence on the adoption of initiatives, their effects and their relationships, can help to identify where we can make it easier and more rewarding for research teams and organisations to focus on doing high quality research and developing highly skilled and motivated research staff. It is vital that the project leads engage with a wide range of stakeholders to provide the research community with confidence in the work.

This work is being done alongside the UK government's review of research bureaucracy. This joint project from UUK, UKRI and Wellcome Trust will support this and the broader aims of the UK's Research and Development Roadmap.

We are inviting tender submissions to undertake this project, which will run from May to October 2021.  For more information about the project, or to submit a tender, please contact Dan Wake, Policy Manager, Universities UK, via daniel.wake@universitiesuk.ac.uk


Tender submissions

Download the Invitation to Tender (ITT) with full details. 

Please return one email copy of your response in English to: daniel.wake@universitiesuk.ac.uk

UUK shall have the right to disqualify any candidates who submit incomplete or late tenders.

The submission deadline is Friday 23 April 2021 at 12.00pm BST.


Questions about this ITT 

For transparency, any questions we receive about the consultation will be published below.  


Question on stakeholders: 

The ITT mentions 'stakeholders' several times, and we seem to understand that this term is used in different ways across the document – eg to discuss the organisations owning the concordats/agreements, government, researchers, research support staff. Could you kindly clarify what is your understanding of the stakeholder groups that should be directly engaged or consulted in this review? We can of course make our own assumptions in our response to the ITT, but we would appreciate any insight or specific requirement from you.


Answer:

There are broadly four groups of stakeholders relevant to the project. They are:

  1. The project sponsors; UUK, UKRI and Wellcome. The contractor should work with the sponsors throughout the project, including to prioritise the initiatives in scope.
  2. A wider group of national bodies, including the project sponsors, government, other research funders and representatives of the research community. This is the primary audience for the project outputs.
  3. The owners, conveners, groups and communities explicitly associated with the initiatives that are the focus of the project. This is the main group with whom the contractor will engage to gather evidence.
  4. The research community affected by the initiatives. The contractor should expect any engagement with this community to be via the owners and groups explicitly associated with the initiatives.

 


Question on formatting: 

Are there formatting or page limit requirements since none are listed in the ITT itself?
 

Answer:

There are no formatting or page limit requirements, however submissions should be emailed in English to Daniel.wake@universitiesuk.ac.uk.  



Question on the length of tender response:

Could you provide a bit of guidance around what you deem to be a ‘concise’ tender please? Guidance in terms of approximate page numbers would be very much appreciated.
 

Answer: 

As we have not specified a page length approximation in the invitation to tender, we cannot provide further guidance, particularly as some applicants may already be drafting their responses. We can only direct to what is already outlined in the invitation to tender, ie that the submission should be “focusing on the proposed work and budget” and include the information as outlined in the requirements.



Question on the membership of the stakeholder group: 

Please could you let us know the expected membership (groups, organisations or otherwise) of this stakeholder group?

Re: "Stakeholder engagement will be largely with and via established groups, for example those around the initiatives, and potentially at Government level."


Answer: 

The initiatives have grown up organically, in the context of their particular stakeholders and organisational landscape.  They are therefore rather varied in the groups that are around them.  Where those are well-defined, then information is generally available from the websites of the initiative, for example see the Researcher Career Development Concordat Strategy Group. In general, the core document of each initiative gives a good indication of the stakeholders it convenes, for example see the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Researc.

 


Question on the challenge group:

Please could you let us know the types of members or organisations that will be part of the challenge group?

Re: "The challenge group will test the quality of the preliminary and draft final findings, and help the project board steer the project."


Answer: 

The challenge group has not yet been formed.  We expect it to include experts in public policy research, leaders in academic research culture, and representatives of the main audiences for the work.

 


Question on the target audience for quantitative research: 

For the quantitative research, is the target audience expected to be solely those within universities? And if so – are there particular groups within universities who are of interest/ should be targeted or is a broader sample expected? And will the funders or stakeholder group be facilitating access to HEIs?


Answer:

We expect quantitative evidence to be available either from the initiatives themselves where it already exists, or via the initiatives if it needs to be gathered.  The extent to which evidence already exists is unclear.  Where new evidence is gathered via the initiatives, then we expect the way this is done (including resourcing) to be agreed in each case by the initiative, the project board and the contractor.

 


Question on sharing feedback from quantitative research

If we engage widely for the quantitative research, is it possible to share the feedback and findings to help secure participation in the research and the topic?


Answer:

As above, this would be subject to the decisions in each case.



Question on evaluation

Can you clarify the distinction between evaluating the initiatives themselves and the impact of the initiatives? In particular, on page 3 in the Aim section, the Tender contains the sentence "The project will not evaluate the initiatives themselves." On page 5 under the Outcomes section, the tender states that one outcome of the research will be "Qualitative and quantitative evidence of the effects / impact of the initiatives, both individually and taken together, and who feels these effects." There are some of these initiatives where disentangling the impact of the initiative on research culture from the 'initiative itself' so-to-speak will not be trivial. Is there any further information you can share on what you see as the distinction between the two?


Answer

This project will not make overall conclusions on whether the concordats and initiatives are valuable. It will explore their values and underlying procedures such as commitments, guidance, principles, and statements used in the initiatives. It will be exploring the effects / impact of the initiatives and how stakeholders can improve the ways these initiatives affect research culture and environment.

 


Question on what an ideal outcome would be 

Can you provide any further information on what you see as the ideal outcome of this project? What will the outputs support you in doing as an organisation and set of stakeholders?


Answer 

We cannot provide further information beyond what is provided in the invitation to tender. However, we have outlined the key outcomes and deliverables on pages five and six of the invitation. This opportunity to gather evidence on the effects of these initiatives will be used to inform any future actions that funders, research institutions or others might wish to take.