Help prioritise research on research

AIMOS research prioritisation

By Prof Adrian Barnett

2024 has been called “The Ultimate Election Year” by Time Magazine, with important national elections in India, the USA and UK.

In the spirit of this worldwide exercise in democracy, the Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-Research and Open Science (AIMOS) is asking people to vote to find the most important questions in research funding. The goal of prioritising research is that the questions that get investigated are more likely to be of value to the community, making them more likely to influence policy and practice. It’s particularly important in research funding because there’s very little funding available, hence we need to spend our scarce resources wisely.

The voting is the second part of our research prioritisation exercise to address the meta-question: What questions about research funding would you like to see answered by research? The first stage was gathering questions, where we received a whopping 77 questions.

It has been a fascinating exercise already, with questions arising that I would never have thought of. The questions covered a wide range of issues, with some common themes:

  • Fairness, are there particular groups of people or types of research that are being harshly scored?
  • Efficiency, where can time be saved for applicants and reviewers?
  • Peer review, on potential changes to how reviewers read and score applications.
  • Alternative systems, including lotteries and equal allocation.

The respondents at the first stage were mostly researchers in health and medical research (68%), but there were also members of the public (8%) and end users of research (8%). Eighty percent of respondents were from Australia.

After voting has closed, we will use literature reviews to examine the existing evidence for the top-rated questions. The final stage is a face-to-face meeting at the AIMOS conference to list the highest priority questions by combining the evidence to date with the thoughts of experts and end users. If you want to come to that meeting then please register here.

Half the world will vote in elections this year. We don’t need a billion votes, but the more perspectives we get, the more likely the final list of questions are to represent genuine priorities. Having a prioritised list will help direct future research and then hopefully make improvements to funding systems.

You can see the list of top-ranked questions here and we encourage all researchers and members of the public to vote to influence the ranks here.

Prof Adrian Barnett, Strength Lead – Statistics and Data Analysis at the Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation, is the 2024 president of the Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-Research and Open Science, a society of inter-disciplinary researchers that use science and research to improve science and research.