Research on research

Research on research (also known as meta-research, the science of science and meta-science) is the study of research itself.

It’s an evolving discipline that aims to produce evidence on how to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, fairness and impact of research. 

Request for proposals: FAIRware – open source software to support researchers and funders in implementing the FAIR principles

We're looking for proposals to speed up adoption of the FAIR principles(opens in a new tab) through the design and development of a suite of online open source software tools (FAIRware).

The chosen supplier(s) will work with the Wellcome Data Labs team and our funding partners to design and build a minimum viable product (MVP) to assess the FAIR status of data and software outputs initially – and of other research outputs in future. Suppliers will have access to expert advice from the European Commission’s FAIRsFAIR programme(opens in a new tab), a partner of the FAIRware initiative.

The deadline for expressions of interest has now passed. We will notify applicants as to whether they will be invited to submit a full application no later than Friday 30 October. Please direct any queries to Adam Dinsmore at

FAIRware is a Research on Research Institute initiative, led by the Austrian Science Fund, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Institute for Health Research, Swiss National Science Foundation and Wellcome.

Why it’s important to us 

Wellcome, and the research we support, aims to be a social good. We’re acutely aware of the influence we have on research culture and systems. This influence can be used positively to drive change, and we want to help build a better research culture – one that is creative, inclusive and honest.

However, our own systems can have unintended consequences – such as sometimes creating a focus on outputs and increased productivity at the expense of how research is achieved. This is often underpinned by the decisions we make and how we make them at the strategic and individual funding level. 

Research on research is important to help us better understand and improve our own funding practices and policies, and those of other funders.

What we’re doing 

Research on Research Institute 

We’ve launched the Research on Research Institute(opens in a new tab) – an international consortium of research funders, academic institutions and technologists working together to develop more open, inclusive and effective research systems.

Co-founded with the universities of Sheffield and Leiden, and Digital Science, the consortium will carry out transformative and translational research on research.

Specific activities include:

  • the creation of a secure data platform to help partners share research on research data, policies and practices 
  • partnership projects
  • a programme of seminars and webinars
  • regular reports, working papers and think pieces. 

All research methodologies and findings will be openly available. 

Research on Research Awards

In May 2018, we launched a funding call to support researchers using multidisciplinary methods to improve how research is funded, conducted and evaluated. 

The four grants we awarded are directly applicable to the funding sector and explore: 

  • the criteria that grant reviewers use, and how they weight those judgements
  • the feasibility of registered reports funding
  • how to effectively evaluate collaborative research
  • the development of digital tools to analyse statistical and image manipulations.

Improving how Wellcome makes funding decisions

We’ve commissioned research to understand how Wellcome and other research funders can make better funding decisions. 

This includes looking at:

  • current and alternative decision-making pathways
  • who is involved in decision-making, including their roles and experiences
  • the quality of decision-making, including bias. 

Supporting early career researchers – succeeding through failure

To help understand the impact of how funders work, we’re asking early career researchers who have submitted a funding application to Wellcome to tell us about:

  • the impact of a successful versus an unsuccessful funding application on their productivity
  • how they use feedback, and if feedback on unsuccessful proposals is linked to future success or failure
  • how they define excellence.

We’re collaborating with Gemma Derrick and her team at Lancaster University(opens in a new tab) on this work.

We will be inviting researchers who have applied to Wellcome to participate and hope to share the findings by the autumn of 2020.

More information 

Contact us 

If you have any questions, contact Jonathan Best