Investing in a 21st Century Educational Research System

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This policy briefing is co-authored by the British Academy and the Royal Society and marks the end of a collaborative project that has looked at the educational research landscape in the UK. The briefing and its recommendations are influenced by data and insights that have been garnered throughout this project, which took place over multiple years.

The briefing underlines why educational research is important and how it is a profoundly impactful part of the Research and Development (R&D) eco-system. Educational research supports innovation in a vital public service that affects everyone. If we compare the relative level of funding for educational research with other key public services, such as health, one can see a disparity in investment.

In this briefing, the two academies put forward the case for increased investment in educational research and a better coordinated system through a series of recommendations for government and research funders:

Government should increase funding for educational research

  • A significant uplift in government spending on educational research would bring it into line with other public service research funding
  • As a proportion of overall education spending, educational research should resemble other government departmental spending on research, properly reflecting the importance of education for the UK’s future prosperity

Research funders should include more long-term research funding opportunities and support for underrepresented research themes

  • Funding structures and spending have increasingly favoured short- and medium-term research at the expense of longer-term studies
  • Longitudinal research and other longer-term studies uniquely offer deeper insights into the enduring effectiveness of policy
  • Government and other funders should therefore reflect this by modifying their educational research grant programmes to incentivise applicants wishing to carry out studies of longer duration and design, as well as those focused on underrepresented and emerging research themes

Government should pilot a model of advocacy and coordination leading to a stronger educational research infrastructure

  • An advocacy and coordinating body for educational research, that is independent of central government, could provide a mechanism to achieve these aims
  • This organisation would produce gap analyses of the research landscape to identify underrepresented priority areas for investment and activity
  • It could also provide impartial, strategic advice to government on departmental research on education
  • This would all create a more systematic approach to improving educational research infrastructure and translating findings into practice

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