April 2019

This update describes the SFI consultation process on the draft outline strategy.  On 7 March, SFI ran SFI Engage, a 12-hour open online discussion forum to facilitate feedback on SFI’s outline new strategy.  We welcomed feedback from all who were interested in scientific and engineering research and its impact on the world around us.  We had broad participation with participants engaging from all around the world. 

Over the course of the day, seven main topics were discussed with each topic covering a broad part of the draft new SFI strategy outline. For each strategic theme, we looked at the Global best practice and context, the implications for Ireland and SFI, and how SFI could make it happen. We had guest contributors from a range of organisations including NSF, SNSF, NNF, HEA, IRC, and IUA. The SFI Engage platform was developed for us by the SFI ADAPT Research Centre. 

There was general support for the overall SFI Outline Strategy. Some key messages that emerged:

  • Excellent research must be supported, as in general, great ideas will come naturally from a strong talent pipeline and it is important to ensure an intentional and balanced research and talent continuum as part of the new strategy.
  • Building an engaged and connected community, starting from youth, who value, participate in and champion research is imperative.
  • Working towards a collaborative, efficient and effective research ecosystem is an ambitious and worthwhile goal. 
  • As a small country, we have an opportunity to be flexible, innovative, take risks and experiment.

Since SFI Engage, we have collated all the data and begun developing the detailed strategy. 

The next stage for the strategy development is developing the detailed strategy, approval by Science Foundation Ireland Board and then submission to Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI). 

February 2019

We have sought ideas, actions, visions and missions for SFI through extensive data gathering and workshopping.  In total, we consulted with around 1,000 individuals using a variety of approaches including workshops, surveys, and focus groups.  We have spent the past month analysing the data.  This update describes the findings that emerged and what will happen next with the SFI strategy development.  

After extensive consultation, we have analysed and aggregated all the data collected.   There were 1,931 recommendations which came from all the inputs we received from our internal and external strategy consultation engagement, namely:

Having clustered the raw data, common themes emerged.  From the survey data, the most common theme that came through is for SFI to support more frontier/basic research, followed by SFI funding more smaller project grants and more schemes for early-stage career researchers.  The main ask from the survey respondents is for SFI to review and balance our portfolio mix. 

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Through our interactive workshops, different priorities and actions arose including SFI taking a more collaborative approach across the national funding system and taking a more interdisciplinary and challenge-based funding approach to investment.  Like the survey data, more schemes and better support for early-career researchers also emerged as an action. 

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While these recommendations do not represent SFI’s formal position, they are invaluable for informing the development of SFI’s new strategy.  The Strategy team are now combining these data with global best practice and emerging trends for funding agencies. 

We have recently worked with SFI staff and Board on developing SFI’s new vision and mission statements.  The Vision and Mission statements are important to SFI as they will set the direction and help the organisation focus attention on the consultation actions that are strategically important for Ireland.  We are now compiling a draft outline strategy which summarises the critical elements of the new strategy.

We invite you to SFI Engage which will take place on 7th March.  This event is an innovative, day-long, live online discussion forum which will provide you an opportunity to delve deep and give feedback on the core elements of our new draft strategy. 

We are sharing the ‘raw’ data that was captured from the survey, workshops and focus groups. The spreadsheet contains the ‘raw’, unprocessed data that has been generated through the SFI’s strategy development consultation. SFI is publishing this dataset to keep all stakeholders informed, as part of our commitment to the strategy development process being open and collaborative.  Please note a very small number of entries were removed that were deemed personal and/or unprofessional in nature. 

The ‘raw’ data can be downloaded here.

If you require further feedback or clarification regarding generated actions, please contact strategy2025@sfi.ie

December 2018

In December 2018 SFI hosted a webinar to give an update on the development of the New SFI Strategy:

The slidedeck for this webinar is available to download here.

We talked to the people who know best, the people who are affected most by what we do. We have carried out international good practice research. We looked at the key performance indicators for peer organisations and we have visited them to look at their strategies and see what works best and what doesn’t work.  We have connected with academics, young researchers, industry partners, policy makers and the general public.  In total, we have consulted with around 1,000 individuals to date using a variety of approaches including workshops, surveys, interviews and focus groups.  Our survey had 308 responses rich with ideas.  We workshopped in Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) targeting academics.  We led separate focus groups with early career researchers, enterprise, and with public engagement and communicators of research.  

It was an intensive and fun process and we captured every piece of data (we do like our data!).  Over three months we’ve had 149 brainstorming sessions in our workshops, used 4,470 post-its and travelled 1,442 kms across Ireland to engage and connect with people interested in science for our future.   We also had a professional illustrator at some of our sessions who drew out some of the discussions around themes that were emerging. – sometimes a picture can tell a thousand words.

At the workshops, we presented a menu of topics focusing on how we invest in research in Ireland, the science and research ecosystem, and trends that will impact the future of research. We invited participants to tease out what the strengths and weaknesses are around the themes and potential actions that SFI could focus on. Some themes resonated more than others with workshop participants. The graph illustrates the votes each topic received as groups chose what to discuss.

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One Voice refers to the possibility of aligning many stakeholders behind a common message of the value of research.  The Matthew Effect refers to the rich getting richer, i.e. the phenomenon of a small number of researchers with very strong track records finding it perhaps too easy to win further grants, while others even with potentially better ideas find it challenging to win funding.  Full Disclosure - This is not a scientific graph because we changed the offerings of themes at different workshops.

It is too early to talk about findings but there are interesting trends emerging.  From the workshops alone, we’ve had over 800 ideas merging into 50 clusters which are falling into three categories – the low hanging fruit (relatively easy to do and within SFI’s remit), the more challenging but within SFI’s remit and capabilities, and others which SFI would be play a supportive role as part of the research system. 

We are currently analysing the vast amount of data we have and are clustering and segmenting these around our vision and mission for SFI 2025.  We will move into the ‘draft strawman’ phase in early 2019. That will see all the knowledge and ideas gathered and translating them into a draft strategy which will then be put that out for further consultation.  We are planning to host an open online forum in February or March where everyone can contribute and input to different topics and discussions.  This will be open to the general public, the research community, politicians and those who make up and participate in our research ecosystem. 

SFI would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who has given of their time and ideas so freely to date!