New partners, new projects and a new nonprofit: RoRI embarks on its next five years of research on research

Today marks the start of RoRI’s Phase 2. With our international consortium of partners, we’re excited to launch another five years of generating, synthesising and translating ideas and evidence into practical solutions to improve research.

Launched in 2019 by the universities of Sheffield and Leiden, Wellcome Trust, and Digital Science, the Research on Research Institute (RoRI) has grown into one of the world’s largest platforms for meta-research collaboration. Today marks the start of our second phase, which will run until 2027. 

We’ve expanded our consortium to bring in new partners, and will be working with them to codesign and develop a fresh wave of projects. By turning the tools of research back on itself, RoRI generates data, evidence and analysis that can improve how we design, manage and support research.

We’re also incorporating RoRI as a nonprofit social enterprise—a community interest company in UK law—which will enshrine its independence, and give us a more agile organisational model from which to advance our mission to accelerate transformative and translational research on research systems, cultures and decision-making. 

James Wilsdon, Director of RoRI and Digital Science Professor of Research Policy at the University of Sheffield said:

“RoRI aims to unlock more of the potential of the US$2 trillion that is invested globally in R&D every year. Since 2019, the partnerships that we’ve built, and the progress we’ve made, reinforces the need for collaborative platforms like RoRI to support and amplify efforts to make research cultures more dynamic, agile, diverse and inclusive. We’re excited to get underway with this next phase of work, and grateful to all our partners and collaborators for their continued support.”

Join us on Monday 20 June for a special online event from 15:00-18:00 CEST (14:00-17:00 BST), to kickstart this next phase. Co-hosted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the meeting brings together participants from 18 countries, including researchers, research funders, scholarly communication, data and infrastructure providers, to debate priorities for meta-research, share lessons and highlights from our pilot phase, and look ahead to RoRI’s next five years.

Launching RoRI phase 2

RoRI’s second phase will see us undertake an expanded  portfolio of projects, with more partners and research collaborators around the world. Our approach will continue to be characterised by:

  • an independent, partnership-based, non-profit, mission-driven model; working at sufficient scale to engage with research in diverse countries and contexts
  • drawing on a rich blend of disciplinary perspectives, concepts, tools and methods 
  • partnering in a genuinely collaborative, co-productive way
  • ensuring a supportive environment for risk-taking and collaboration
  • maintaining a commitment to open infrastructures, open data and open access.

We’re delighted to welcome an expanded group of Core Partners, who will collectively steer RoRI’s work over the next five years. Subject to final agreements (1), the following organisations have signalled their intention to become Core Partners in Phase 2: 

Novo Nordisk Foundation; Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF); Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR – Luxembourg National Research Fund); Michael Smith Health Research BC; Digital Science; Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University; Volkswagen Foundation; and the University of SheffieldOther Core Partners and project partners will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Matthias Egger, President of Swiss National Science Foundation and host of today’s meeting, said:

“At the Swiss National Science Foundation, we are convinced that funding policies should be informed by research on research. RORI allows us to work with leaders in the field and other funding agencies worldwide. Such collaborations will help the SNSF to improve its evaluation processes and make progress on crucial issues like open research data. We are looking forward to continuing the collaboration with RoRI in the second phase.”

Marc Schiltz, CEO of Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR – Luxembourg National Research Fund), said:

“The FNR believes that the activities, processes, and output of research funders should meet the same academic rigour as the research we fund. We therefore fully support RoRI’s activities, which resonate perfectly with FNR’s internal Science of Science (SoS) unit, that aims at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of science funding. The collaboration and creativity expressed in this consortium will help to develop the tools and mindset needed to enhance the funding, the practice, the evaluation and the communication of research and science in general.”

Today we will be providing more details of our collaborative governance model and how the consortium will work together in Phase 2. We are also delighted to announce a new team of Co-Chairs for RoRI’s Partnership Board, which meets for the first time this week:

Sarah de Rijcke, Scientific Director of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University, and Co-Chair of RoRI said:

“RoRI is unique in the possibilities it offers to collaborate directly with research funders and other stakeholders in the research system, and to set up joint research projects that aim to deliver transformative changes across the system. The results of the first phase demonstrate the potential of this collaborative way of working. One of the aims for the coming years is to join forces with more academic partners and disciplines and continue to build capacity for interdisciplinary, mixed-method RoR in and across research systems worldwide. We know from experience that affecting change at the systems level is hard. It not only requires rigour, resources, and trust, but also patience, care, and a willingness to collaborate and learn. With RoRI, we are building a unique and growing network of researchers, research funders, scholarly communication and infrastructure providers. I look forward to the years to come.”

Gert Vilhelm Balling, Novo Nordisk Foundation and Co-Chair of RoRI said:

“For Novo Nordisk Foundation, RoRI is a great opportunity to work with other engaged stakeholders on research on research, and to share experience and knowledge on data collection, data processing and advanced analytics. For that reason, we are also delighted to be funding and supporting RoRI’s Funder Data Platform for the next five years.” 

Katrin Milzow, Head of Strategy at the Swiss National Science Foundation and Co-Chair of RoRI said:

“RoRI’s collaborative, co-productive approach presents funders like the Swiss National Science Foundation with a unique opportunity to gain broad based evidence to develop activities. Together with our academic partners, we formulate questions that help us improve our funding policies and processes and create value for our stakeholders.” 

Our latest project findings and updates

To mark the start of RoRI’s second phase, we’re excited to share our latest project findings and updates including: 

As the final output from our pilot phase RANDOMISATION project, we’ve updated and expanded our Experimental Research Funder’s Handbook, to make it more accessible and engaging as a resource for funders looking to move down this path.

Today we are also publishing a new working paper on Where next for partial randomisation of research funding? The feasibility of RCTs and alternatives. Co-authored by a team from the University of Sheffield and the Wellcome Trust, this outlines considerations for any study of partial randomisation of research funding, and considers scenarios in which randomised controlled trials (RCTs) would be relevant and feasible. It highlights the interdependence of target outcomes, sample availability and statistical power for determining the cost and feasibility of a trial, and more briefly reviews alternatives to RCTs. 

  • The new RoRI Funder Lab

As Phase 2 gets underway, RoRI and its partners are launching the RoRI Funder Lab, to support, scale and accelerate experiments with research funding and evaluation. Like our Funder Data Platform, which facilitates data-sharing and analysis, the Funder Lab will provide collaborative infrastructure and other resources to support and scale up experimentation by its partners. It will draw on a team of researchers, methodologists and evaluators, plus a wider network of research collaborators, to support funders with the design, implementation and evaluation of experiments with funding processes, and other quantitative and analytical studies.

RoRI’s Funder Data Platform, developed by Wellcome Trust, is a secure, closed environment for research funders to upload, share and collaboratively analyse funding data. It has already unlocked new insights into the research landscape and, with legal and project agreements already in place, we’re delighted to announce an expansion of the platform in Phase 2. This is being supported by a generous grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation. Today, we are releasing some initial findings from the CRITERIA study—the first project to use the platform—which is exploring how grant application criteria influence gender differences in research funding.

In early 2022, RoRI commissioned Carter Research Navigation to provide a rapid-yet-robust, independent review of RoRI’s pilot phase. The primary method was a series of targeted stakeholder interviews, with some examination of documentary materials.  This review is published today. It concludes that RoRI has demonstrated strong overall performance, being well organised and producing some serious, well-designed studies; despite the pandemic restricting interactions. Interviewees were all positively engaged and constructive. 

RoRI has a number of features that are important reasons that participants engage, and need to be protected:

  • an environment of trust
  • strong co-creation and multiple forms of co-working
  • funders as partners, subjects and beneficiaries
  • dialogue being as important as outputs
  • enabling the translation of research into practice.

Challenges and areas that need more work in Phase 2 include:

  • supporting diversity, in all its forms
  • communication and community engagement
  • the range of translational and innovation pathways
  • ongoing partner and stakeholder engagement
  • data sharing
  • organisational, intellectual and economic sustainability.

Join the Phase 2 RoRI consortium

RoRI is now two years old, and much of its life has been spent in the shadows of the pandemic—a turbulent period for us all, yet one which has underlined the need for evidence-informed approaches to research policy, strategy, prioritisation and evaluation.

Now we want to take research on research to the next level—using RoRI as a collaborative platform to support and amplify the commitments and efforts of others. We invite you to join us in shaping RoRI’s agenda for the next five years. To explore partnership and project opportunities, please contact James Wilsdon at

Be the first to get your hands on our findings, tools and event invitations by signing up to the RoRI newsletter and following us on Twitter.    

(1) Partners are now in the advanced stages of finalising the legal, governance and funding arrangements for RoRI’s second phase.