Why submitting your science outcomes matters to the environmental sciences

20 February 2019

As the deadline for submitting outcomes to Researchfish® approaches on 14 March 2019, Professor Mark Bailey, Director of the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), explains how completing your returns helps us make the case for continued investment in environmental science.

Professor Mark Bailey

Professor Mark Bailey.

The NERC-funded environmental sciences community is the best performing scientific discipline in the UK, as measured by citation impact. This serves to illustrate the excellence of the community as a whole and the societal importance of the work funded by NERC. The scientific advances we make are at the heart of the evidence base that public servants, business decision-makers, fellow researchers and others need in order to tackle the many complex environmental challenges we face.

An invitation has been sent to all active and recent NERC-funded investigators to complete their Researchfish returns. This is an important requirement as the data are used by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to report on and benchmark outputs and the international performance of UK research. This comparison demonstrates that the UK is world-leading in many aspects of environmental science in both the quality and impact of UK research.

The need for investment in environmental science has never been greater. Indeed, this is recognised by new initiatives such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund. Now UK Research & Innovation is up and running, the NERC community is ideally placed to further demonstrate the relevance and excellence of our science and extend essential cross-disciplinary and collaborative networks, both nationally and internationally.

For 2018, the compliance rate on Researchfish reporting by NERC award holders was 98%, one of the best rates amongst the research councils. But we can do better. As one of my colleagues used to say: "It would be no good if you could only 98% fly an aeroplane." I stress the need for awardees to update their information.

Your information is used by NERC and other research councils to make the case to government for the effectiveness of UK investment in research and innovation and to report on the performance and impact of investments. It is also used by BEIS to make its case for funding to HM Treasury. NERC now has a substantial database dating back to 2003 reporting outcomes and outputs. It holds over 45,000 NERC-funded publications with a normalised citations impact of 1·93, confirming the world-leading position of UK environmental sciences. By maintaining the quality and depth of reporting, we further demonstrate the extent of partnerships and the difference the NERC community makes in pathways to impact.

The portal is open from 4 February to 14 March 2019. We must all communicate our successes and fully report the outcomes of our work in Researchfish. I will ensure that staff at CEH complete their returns and I urge you all to play your part.

Professor MJ Bailey FAAM FRSB