Charities need to demonstrate public benefit, and for charities that fund medical research this means showing that the research they fund has an impact for people with that condition. However, it can take many years and many research groups to translate a research idea into a new treatment or therapy. Funders have shown impact by carrying out retrospective reviews of their research, asking recipients of old grants to tell them what happened next, but this takes a lot of time, and can be seen as ‘cherry picking’ the best examples, rather than giving a true picture of the impact of a research programme.

Using Researchfish to track the impact of charity research funding

Researchfish is an online evaluation system for collecting information on outputs, outcomes and impacts of research. It was launched in 2012 and is based on the MRC e-Val system used by the Medical Research Council (MRC) since 2009. Researchfish allows researchers to link their outputs to the different grants that they hold from funders who are using the system. Because impacts are added prospectively, funders are able to assess the impact of a whole funding stream as well as from individual grants.

Collaboration with AMRC

The MRC, Researchfish and AMRC have been collaborating since 2013 to allow AMRC members the opportunity to use Researchfish for free or at a discounted rate. The first stage of this collaboration was a £1 million agreement announced in February 2013 that allowed all AMRC members with an annual research spend of £25m or less the chance to use the Researchfish research outcomes system at no charge for up to three years. In July 2016, the deal was extended for a further 2 years.

A group of AMRC members spending less than 5M per annum on UK Research and MRC have agreed to voluntarily collaborate to co-fund phase 3 of the ‘Researchfish’ project for a 4 year period (April 2018 - March 2022). The cost of the project will be met by those members providing funding contributions in line with their UK research spend. MRC funds will subsidise these costs by also providing grant funding support to the earlier years, such that the costs that need to be funded by members will rise from 25% in year 1 to 100% in year 4. The project will allow charities to use the Researchfish platform to collect outputs and impacts of the research they fund, and enable AMRC to autocode and collate sector data and provide a collaborative and supportive learning environment for data analysis and impact for all contributors.

AMRC charities who wish to join this initiative should contact Jocelyn LeBlanc.

Showing impact across the sector

AMRC is working with its members and all funders using Researchfish to develop ways of sharing information to allow us to demonstrate the impact of the medical research sector as a whole. Researchfish funders have developed a data sharing policy that links to the AMRC’s data sharing agreement with our members. The overarching principle is that anonymised sector-wide data can be released, but no data that can be attributed to a particular funder will be produced without permission.

You can read about how AMRC has used Researchfish to pool outcomes data across charities in this case study.

AMRC represents our members to Researchfish

The governance structure of Researchfish is comprised on a steering board and several sub groups who meet quarterly. AMRC has representation in each of these groups and we can flag any concerns from our membership. Please contact Jocelyn with issues or feedback you’d like to relay to Researchfish.