The value of structural diversity: assessing diversity for a sustainable research base

Adams, Jonathan, Hopkins, Michael, Rafols, Ismael, Rotolo, Daniele, Stirling, Andrew and Digital Science, (2015) The value of structural diversity: assessing diversity for a sustainable research base. Technical Report. Digital Science, London.

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Abstract

This report is about structural diversity - the diversity of disciplines, institutions and support mechanisms. Structural diversity is a property of a ‘strong’ research base that not only produces great research today but also has the capacity to address new challenges flexibly and responsively tomorrow. It is distinct from the contribution made by social diversity - the diversity of gender, nationality and ethnicity - to productivity, innovation and social cohesion.

We need to assess diversity for future research just as much as we evaluate achievement for past research. Research assessment is usually a retrospective analysis of historical data whether it uses grant income, staff capacity, publication output, or citation impact. This is a very limited perspective for policy and investment. It is a skewed view of what might be important for the future of the research base. Awarding more funds to institutions and teams that did well last year is a safe bet only so long as next year looks similar. But the pace of discovery is accelerating, challenges change, new fields emerge and we lack the foresight to predict where demands and the breakthroughs will come next.

The capacity to support excellence and respond to opportunity comes from:

• Diversity of research fields: A broader range of disciplines supports exceptional levels of research excellence, fed through a network of institutions of regional and international significance (Evidence, 2002; Evidence, 2003).

• Diversity in support which gives flexibility of research support to allow a mix of long and short term responses and includes strategic and responsive awards: Government has consistently argued that diverse funding mechanisms are required to enable curiosity-driven research and evolving, targeted programs of high policy priority or scientific need (Cabinet Office,
1993).

• Diversity of research organisations, where mission-led units complement large and small universities with regional as well as international engagement: UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser Bob May showed that research economies with a strong university research base performed consistently better than those committed to narrow, mission-led research institutes (May, 1997).

Because of our uncertainty about the future we need an agile and responsive research base. So why is this agility not core to the assessment of research and innovation? Diversity in the structure of the research system has been overlooked and under-researched because it is in practice a tricky concept to turn into a hard definition, and even trickier to quantify.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Technical Report)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Andrew Stirling
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2017 13:40
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2017 16:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/69090

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