Arthritis Research UK - Promoting effective and efficient reporting

5th June 2013

In a world increasingly focused on accountability, over 30 leading research funding organisations including Arthritis Research UK have joined forces to use a new research outcomes reporting system called Researchfish. 

Arthritis Research UK joined the project when it was first initiated in May 2010, spotting the clear opportunity for effective and efficient reporting for their researchers (PIs).  
Funding research into a condition that affects 10 million people in the UK, it is crucially important for Arthritis Research UK that it understands the outcomes and impacts achieved by the research the charity funds.
Mary Robinson, research evaluation manager at Arthritis Research UK said:
“Understanding the outcomes and impact of the research we fund helps us plan our research strategy, ensure we are meeting the broad aims of the charity, and that we can communicate the benefits of research to patients and our supporters. Our ability to demonstrate the benefits of research funded by Arthritis Research UK directly impacts our fundraising success and hence our ability to support further research.”
Around 250 Arthritis Research UK grant holders are now reporting through Researchfish, thus enabling the charity to evaluate just over 300 of its grants.
Mary Robinson, research evaluation manager at Arthritis Research UK said:
“Before Researchfish, we had our own end of grant questionnaire system in place for reporting, but it was very time-consuming and costly to maintain.  Also we recognised that significant outcomes and impacts can occur during the life of a grant, not only at the end. We knew we needed a different system and didn’t have the resources to do this in-house, so we jumped at the opportunity to join the Researchfish working party, to develop the MRC’s e-Val system into a federated version for multiple funders to use.”
A key concern for Arthritis Research UK was to minimise the onus of reporting for their grant holders by using a system in common with other funders.  Mary Robinson said:
“While meeting the needs of the charity for information on our grants, we needed to find a way of minimising the burden of reporting for our grant holders. By using a system in common with other funders, rather than having our own standalone system, we reduce the work required by those grant holders in receipt of grants from several Researchfish funders.”
Arthritis Research UK’s PIs have already been impressed by the support provided by the Researchfish team. Professor of Biochemistry Bruce Caterson, an internationally renowned scientist who specialises in arthritis research at Cardiff University, said:
“The best thing is that the team really want to listen and get feedback to continue making improvements.  They have made me feel totally comfortable asking questions and have been incredibly constructive on every front.”
Arthritis Research UK went through its first reporting period with an initial group of PIs in Researchfish in December 2012, and the majority of remaining PIs have now been added to the system with some of those due to report for the first time in May 2013.  Mary Robinson said:
“It has been a steep learning curve getting used to a new system, but now it’s up and running and being integrated with our internal processes, this will greatly improve our understanding of the impacts and outcomes of research funded by the charity.
“Researchfish’s helpdesk has also significantly assisted us, being available to answer any technical questions that our PIs might have, whilst enabling us to reserve our resources in-house for actual evaluation and strategic review of outputs.
“I hope that we will see further consolidation of output reporting systems in the future, as more research funders continue to join Researchfish, thus minimising the burden of reporting on our grant holders while ensuring funders are aware of, and can thus maximise the benefits of research for patients.”










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