Reimaging the nation’s research estate
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an opportunity to better support the UK research and innovation sector in the management of its research estate.”
In a blog published in December 2020, Victoria Moody, Research strategy lead at Jisc, examined how the fight against COVID created a pressing demand to locate and mobilise equipment and facilities that was spread across local governments and universities throughout the UK.
One outcome of the current national emergency is an understanding that there is a strong need to review the nation’s research estate.
Across the UK, institutions and independent laboratories large and small offered their expertise and assets in support of the NHS and UK government in its fight against COVID-19. These included designing and testing products, analysing data, and sharing buildings, laboratories and facilities. Despite such generosity, it soon became clear that it was difficult to leverage these assets in the rush for a rapid response.
"It soon became clear that there is potential for the development of open asset registers that bring together this information at a national level."
“The equipment, facilities and infrastructure landscape across the sector, in particular in research-intensive universities, is diverse and complex. Maintaining a holistic, representative and current understanding of that landscape can be challenging,” explained Moody. “It soon became clear that there is potential for the development of open asset registers that bring together this information at a national level.”
Jisc members reported that; “There is much potential to identify every lab in the UK and its specification. If another crisis arises, we need to know what we have and allow institutions to draw the information together systematically.”
As specified in her blog, Moody notes that there are already multiple sector initiatives that have begun the process of bringing this information together, but there remains the need to unite this into a central database. She also outlines several policy calls and strategic drivers that support the development of an enhanced research infrastructure.
“A review of the management of the research estate, whether it concerns bricks and mortar such as equipment or intangible things like metadata or persistent identifiers, will be the first step toward a holistic and more efficient research sector,” said Moody.
According to the blog, these are questions Jisc seeks to address by working with its members and funders and by engaging the Jisc research strategy forum - a group of pro vice-chancellors for research from institutions across the UK - and involving the newly formed digital research community.
“It soon became clear that there is potential for the development of open asset registers that bring together this information at a national level. ”