Charities need to demonstrate public benefit, and for charities that fund medical research, this means showing that the research they fund has an impact for people with that condition. But it can take many years and a many research groups to translate a research idea into a new treatment or therapy.
Funders have shown impact by carrying out retrospective reviews of their research, asking recipients of old grants to tell them what happened next, but this takes a lot of time, and can be seen as ‘cherry picking’ the best examples, rather than giving a true picture of the impact of a research programme.
Researchfish – adding impacts over time
Researchfish is an online evaluation system for collecting information on outputs, outcomes and impacts of research, launched in 2012. It is based on the MRC e-Val system used by the Medical Research Council (MRC) since 2009.
Researchfish allows researchers to link their outputs to the different grants that they hold from funders who are using the system. Because impacts are added prospectively, funders are able to assess the impact of a whole funding stream as well as from individual grants.
On 13 February 2013, AMRC announced a £1 million agreement with the MRC and Researchfish. The funding allowed all AMRC members with an annual research spend of £25m or less the chance to use the Researchfish research outcomes system at no charge for up to three years.
In July 2016, it was announced that the MRC, AMRC and Researchfish collaboration will be extended for a further two years. Under the new agreement, MRC will provide funding to allow eligible health and medical research charities represented by AMRC to use the Researchfish system free of charge, and will support charities’ outcome data collection via the RCUK Research Outcomes Support Team (ROST).
Showing impact across the sector
AMRC is working with its members and all funders that use Researchfish, to develop ways of sharing information, to allow us to demonstrate the impact of the medical research sector as a whole. Researchfish funders have developed a data sharing policy that links to the AMRC’s data sharing agreement with our members. The overarching principle is that anonymised sector-wide data can be released, but no data that can be attributed to a particular funder will be produced without permission.