The Researchfish Scandal

You may remember that about a month ago I posted a piece about the scandalous behaviour of the people who operate Researchfish – the execrable software system intended to collect data relating to the outputs of research grants funded by the various UK Research Councils.  The scandal consisted of bullying of researchers who dared to criticize mighty Researchfish followed by an atrocious non-apology when challenged about their conduct.

Well now today UKRI (UK Research and Innovation, the umbrella organization for the Research Councils) has stepped in, with the result that the scandal has now deepened.

UKRI issued a statement which begins by claiming Researchfish acted in response to “abusive” tweets. The tweets I have seen were by no means abusive so that’s a very poor start. More importantly however, the “update” doesn’t deal at all with the substantive issues raised, namely the sinister threat to communicate researchers’ personal information to UKRI. I have always thought that Researchfish would be better off trying to engage with the research community to improve its system, especially the awful user interface, than threatening the people who criticize it but it now seems the situation is even worse than I originally thought.

According to a story in Research Fortnight, “UK Research and Innovation has admitted it (my emphasis) encouraged Researchfish to report some tweets from academics to it, after enraged researchers criticized the online service for doing this last month”. UKRI goes on to say that they have “stopped this approach with immediate effect and recognize that it was the wrong thing to do”. Damn right it was wrong, but I wonder who made the decision to do it in the first place, and what sanction they will face?

There is also this:

We understand that this has raised questions around personal data. We take data protection very seriously. Our assessment of the data protection considerations is ongoing and is expected to be concluded shortly.

I rather think this calls for an independent inquiry but, although I fear a whitewash is in progress, let’s see wait and see…

One Response to “The Researchfish Scandal”

  1. […] may recall that I blogged here and here about a software platform called Researchfish and the heavy-handed reaction response to […]

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