Foreword – Our evidence base and quality

As the UK's largest funder in engineering and physical sciences research, it's vital that we continually review our portfolio at the research area level to ensure it is balanced and effective in the long-term. Recognising that we have a finite budget, it’s vital we balance our investments strategically across our portfolio. Refreshing our research area strategies involves considering the whole portfolio and making decisions based on a comprehensive view of the entire UK landscape with a thorough understanding of research areas in terms of their quality, national importance and existing capacity.

Evidence Base

As part of portfolio management we continually work with research communities to gather evidence and develop knowledge. Our research area strategies are evidence informed and in order to refresh them we strengthened our body of evidence by running a ‘call for evidence’.

Evidence can be in many forms which can vary for different disciplines. Our research area rationales reference the specific evidence which has informed their strategies, which varies across the different research areas. The evidence covers a broad spectrum and examples include:

  • Evidence that has been published in the form of a report or publication
  • Potential future opportunities e.g. horizon scanning
  • Community engagement activities e.g. workshops or university visits
  • EPSRC portfolio data e.g. submission rates, balance between research and training

Through the call for evidence we received 1012 pieces of evidence. After filtering duplicates, overlaps and EPSRC reports, there were 692 pieces of new, unique evidence to analyse. In all, 62 institutions took part: 4 business, 5 learned societies, 5 professional bodies, 39 Universities and 9 other organisations. A wide range of evidence was submitted including international reports, research publications and roadmaps.

All the evidence submitted, alongside our existing evidence and knowledge, provided a significant contribution to informing our decisions on the future direction for the research areas. Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC said:

“The strength and breadth of evidence gathered from the community shows how valuable this exercise has been and acts as a reminder of the wealth of expertise and knowledge we have in the UK.”

Quality in the context of research can also vary for different research areas and there are different measures of quality. When refreshing the research area strategies we have considered a broad definition of quality which may include:

  • Publication analysis and outputs from the 2014 Research Excellence Framework
  • International reports and international activity
  • Community reviews

For the 111 research areas, evidence and quality will vary and we recognise the distinctions and subtle differences across disciplines. Together with the community, we hope to continue to build our evidence base over the current Delivery Plan period to strengthen it even further.