Wellcome’s response to the Independent Review of Research Bureaucracy

This is our response to the review, led by Professor Adam Tickell, which set out findings and recommendations to reduce bureaucracy in research.

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Wellcome’s response to the Independent Review of Research Bureaucracy
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The Independent Review of Research Bureaucracy, led by Professor Adam Tickell, is a timely and welcome report on the current status of bureaucracy in the UK research funding system.

Overall, Wellcome is supportive of the seven principles the report recommends should underly the future direction of research bureaucracy. However, for funders specifically, reduction in bureaucracy must be balanced against their right and duty to ensure the substantial funds they award are disbursed and protected appropriately. Our aim is to balance sometimes competing needs to ensure unnecessary bureaucracy does not hamper researchers and organisations from making progress towards achieving our combined strategic objectives.

The report has many important recommendations for government funders in particular, and we look forward to the Government’s response to the report. There are also relevant messages for the sector as a whole and in our response below we focus on the specific recommendations most relevant to Wellcome.


Grants assurance is a necessary activity to ensure funds provided for research are spent on the purpose for which they were awarded, and in compliance with the conditions of the awarding body, particularly where the awards are high value. We recognise that grants assurance brings a burden on organisations, researchers and funders, and that there have been additional requirements brought about either by changes in the funding environment, such as data security, or measures to bring about changes to research culture, such as tackling bullying and harassment. We also acknowledge that policies can vary between funders, for example open access, which makes it harder for organisations to ensure compliance with the policies of every funder.

Applying for funding 

We agree that applying for funding is a significant task and recognise many of the issues highlighted in this section. Wellcome continually evaluates its application processes, including the information requested from applicants.

Grant implementation and in-grant management 

Wellcome aims to minimise bureaucracy post-award. Research can take unexpected turns and, provided the purposes of the award are adhered to, our approach is to allow researchers the flexibility to achieve this as they see fit.

Digital platforms and information sharing 

The report rightly highlights the benefit of interoperability of application systems and the use of unique identifiers to facilitate a ‘once only’ and collaborative approach to collecting information. The report also notes that it is not always appropriate or legally permitted to share information with other bodies and therefore, whilst we are supportive in principle, we are required to adhere to the relevant regulations.


Wellcome is supportive of transparency and agrees that good communication plays an essential role in the partnership between funders, researchers and organisations.

There is an opportunity to work more together as funders to give a level of clarity in communication channels and revisit the forums that already exist.


We hope our response provides a useful sense of the recent steps we have taken to reform research bureaucracy, what our experience has taught us about these important issues and where we intend to focus our future activity to support further improvements.

Wellcome is committed to continual improvement and working in partnership with the research community in all its activities, including research bureaucracy. We welcome feedback on how we can improve and will continue to critically assess our own processes and our own requirements as well as work with other funders and funded organisations to optimise research bureaucracy for all.