Towards better science

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Will Henshall

July 31, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Social Market Foundation looks at ways policy can address falling research productivity and the trustworthiness of findings. 

The productivity of scientists has been stalling, risking economic growth with it. This SMF briefing explores ways in which government policy can address two great challenges facing academic science: falling research productivity and the trustworthiness of its findings. Academic science faces two major issues. First, research productivity appears to be declining. Scientific progress appears to be fairly constant, but maintaining this rate of progress is becoming increasingly costly. If the trend continues, we may face a choice between devoting increasingly large proportions of our national income to maintain technological progress, or accepting slower technological progress and a corresponding decline in economic growth. Second, there are issues with the replicability, reproducibility, and robustness of large parts of the academic scientific literature. The same incentives push scientists towards pursuing more incremental and less potentially transformative research agendas that encourage bias, hype, fraud and negligence. To address these interlinked problems, the briefing recommends the creation of a shared research infrastructure with repositories for data, code and papers; the enforcement of UKRI’s Open Research policy; the diversification of UKRI funding mechanisms to fund more radical ideas and fund people rather than projects; and the establishment of a National Institute for Scientific Replicability, to sponsor replication projects, and an Atlas Institute, to map scientific progress and encourage interdisciplinary research.