18 October 2019
In the third of the series, Mike Hynes, School of Political Science & Sociology, National University of Ireland Galway', discusses the case for a REaL research resource.
The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.Read more about the RIA
The Royal Irish Academy established a Research Infrastructures Steering Group in April 2018 to examine the adequacy of Research Infrastructures in Ireland. The group assessed key areas of need in the research sector and identified priority areas of investment for future funding.
The Research Infrastructures Working Group sought to engage with active researchers who currently use research infrastructures and are best placed to discuss the current research environment and assist in the prioritisation of infrastructural needs. A survey conducted in April 2018 painted a worrying picture with 90% of STEM researchers and 85% of AHSS respondents identifying gaps and deficits in the availability of research infrastructures relevant to their discipline. Building and equipment maintenance, access to online databases, core support for research work and inadequate IT facilities were highlighted as critical issues for all disciplines.
Building on this preliminary exploration, the working group held a discussion workshop in June 2018 to facilitate a sector-wide discussion on the actions necessary to address the identified weaknesses in the existing research infrastructure base. Following this, the Academy released a pre-budget submission, Research Infrastructures in Ireland: Strengthening Foundations, Building for the Future, and spoke extensively with key policy stakeholders to highlight the key issues identified by the research community. This was followed up with the release of the survey report.
The work of this group then culminated with a recommendations report, Future-Proofing and Improving Research Infrastructures in Ireland, which details a set of high-level evidence-based recommendations to address the issues discovered related to Irish research infrastructures.
There are many varying definitions of research infrastructures in existence. This project will take a broad view of what a ‘research infrastructure’ is and will include equipment, facilities, buildings, virtual infrastructure and personnel. It will examine research infrastructures related to AHSS disciplines as well as STEM related infrastructures.
The definition that will be broadly applied is that of the Directorate-General for Research, European Commission:
“research infrastructure” means facilities, resources and related services that are used by the scientific community to conduct top-level research in their respective fields and covers major scientific equipment or sets of instruments; knowledge-based resources such as collections, archives or structures for scientific information; enabling Information and Communications Technology-based infrastructures such as Grid, computing, software and communication, or any other entity of a unique nature essential to achieve excellence in research. Such infrastructures may be “single-sited” or “distributed”.