Metascience 2021: that’s a wrap!

Through the second half of September, the RoRI team were busy participating and contributing to Metascience 2021. Partnering with the Center for Open Science and AIMOS in this international conference, we were delighted that around 1,200 participants took part in six days of discussions spread across three time zones. RoRI hosted four sessions and here we share a few highlights of what we covered. 

What is metascience?

This first session set the scene for the meeting by digging into what’s new in metascience, and its deeper disciplinary and methodological roots. We discussed whether metascience, meta-research, research on research and science of science are one and the same, and how they relate to established strands of scholarly work on science and research—well reflected by this Twitter thread.  

The session described the fields now coming together under the metascience banner. While different methods are combining creatively, there’s scope to coalesce more around agreed goals and purposes. 

You can watch the session again here and a follow-up second installment here. Keep an eye out for our forthcoming working paper Go meta: the shifting landscape for research on research—which will outline recent developments in the metascience landscape. 

Innovating peer review 

Our second session was an extensive deep dive into how peer review and other quality controls within scholarly communication are changing. 

We showcased a wide variety of current innovations, including: 

We shared results from our PEER REVIEW project survey—which curated innovations happening across publishers, journal editors, not-for-profit organisations and peer review start-ups.  

Many of the innovations we talked about have the potential to significantly change the way research is published. Yet there’s an ongoing need to evaluate this work and gauge its impact on the research community and beyond.

Watch the session here

Post-pandemic transformations in research 

Our resetting research session was a reflective look at how research culture, funding and evaluation might change in the long-term as a result of the pandemic. A panel of leaders from the international funding community shared lessons and insights on the extent to which COVID-19 will leave a longer-term imprint on funding systems. Ten years from now, will the pandemic be viewed as an anomaly—a temporary blip that changed behaviours for a few years—or an accelerant—which propelled longer-term shifts in the priorities and cultures of research.

Listen to the session again here

After ‘excellence’

Using the findings from our EXCELLENCE project, our final session explored the notion of ‘excellence’ in research funding and evaluation. The panel debated whether it’s still a useful concept, or if something else should be used in its place. 

To help kick off discussion, we published our working paper ’Excellence’ in the research ecosystem: a literature review analysing how the notion of ‘excellence’ has evolved and been understood.   

During the session, we discussed ambiguities associated with ‘excellence’ and how this can create major challenges in the research ecosystem. Some of the consequences include hyper-competition, cumulative advantage for a minority of researchers, homogeneity and conservatism in research, risk aversion, and overemphasis on metrics. How to best overcome these challenges are still being debated and there is a need for ongoing dialogue with a range of stakeholders as well as on the ground action to begin to address key issues. 

Watch the debate here and read our blog summarising the full literature review.  

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Metascience 2021 and to our partners and co-organisers—Center for Open Science and AIMOS. The full line-up of Metascience 2021 sessions are available to watch here.

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