Publication of Independent Review of Research Bureaucracy

The review explores the prevalence and impacts of research bureaucracy and sets out methods to help researchers to focus on research.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published the final report of an independent review established in March 2021 to identify unnecessary bureaucracy across the research system that has become a barrier to effective working and efficiency. The review was commissioned by BEIS and led by Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham.

The review highlights that research bureaucracy is an important source of accountability, transparency, quality control, fairness, and safeguards for individuals and institutions. It therefore does not advocate an ‘indiscriminate’ slashing of bureaucracy, and it followed seven principles when assessing current research bureaucracy, namely: simplification; harmonisation; proportionality; flexibility; transparency; fairness; and sustainability.

Using this approach, the review finds that there is ‘considerable’ potential for change across the research system, and identifies six key themes where there is scope for ‘significant positive change’:

  • Assurance.
  • Applying for funding.
  • Grant implementation and in-grant management.
  • Digital platforms.
  • Institutional bureaucracy.
  • Communications.

The report outlines key findings on the nature and impact of research bureaucracy for each category, and outlines recommendations with different timeframes for implementation. Some recommendations are directed towards specific institutions and can be addressed immediately, while others are broader in scope and will require further consultation or testing through pilot programmes to finalise the specifics of implementation. The Review also calls for greater innovation and experimentation in the management of bureaucracy across the research sector.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

“We warmly welcome this thoughtful and excellent review.

“I would like to thank Professor Tickell and his team for their thorough work and carefully considered recommendations setting out how the research and innovation community can work together to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy.

“The review’s recommendations and the principles that underpin them, strongly align with ongoing work at UKRI, such as our Simple and Better Funding programme.

“By working in partnership across the UK research and innovation system we can catalyse transformational change, maximising the value from record-breaking levels of public investment in R&D.”

A government response to the review is expected to follow in due course, which will set out more detail on how the issues identified will be tackled.

The review can be accessed in full at the BEIS website.

(This report was the subject of a ResearchConnect Newsflash.)