Funder experiments catch AFIRE

RoRI launches its AFIRE accelerator to boost institutional capacity for experiments with research and innovation funding

On 13 May, 31 research funders from 17 countries participated in the launch of RoRI’s newest project AFIRE (Accelerator For Innovation & Research Funding Experimentation).

Across research systems worldwide, interest in trialing novel methods of research funding and evaluation is growing fast, but funders are at different points in their engagement and readiness. AFIRE is a collaboration between RoRI, the Innovation Growth Lab (IGL) and a consortium of our funder partners which aims to boost institutional capacity for the design, implementation and synthesis of experiments with research and innovation funding.

At the launch, we showcased several new or planned experiments, and heard from funders working at the vanguard of evidence-informed approaches to peer review, grant-giving and impact assessment.

Three opening talks set the scene:

During the meeting, we also announced the appointment of Theodore Hodapp (Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and Stian Westlake (ESRC & UKRI) as the two Co-Chairs of the AFIRE steering group. 

Stian Westlake praised the AFIRE project for building valuable capacity to support what is becoming a ‘metascientific moment’ for the international research funding community, characterised by growing enthusiasm and practical support for a culture of experimentation with research funding, evaluation and decision-making – from the newly launched UKRI grant call to a Metascience Working Group set up by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). 

Tom Stafford (RoRI) and Albert Bravo-Biosca (Innovation Growth Lab) then described in more detail how the AFIRE programme will work. Next steps will include running a forum for peer exchange on novel experimental approaches; sprints tackling a particular issue which aim to achieve substantive progress over a short period of time; and providing ongoing assistance for partners who are in the earlier stages of developing experiments.

If you are a research funder looking to get involved with AFIRE, please email Tom Stafford at .