Researchfish is a platform commonly used to track the status of grants and the impacts of research. When academics were critical of the company online, Researchfish shared these comments with the largest funding agency in the UK, and the scientists’ comments were sometimes shared with their employers.
The funding agency UK Research and Innovation has apologized to academics after admitting that it encouraged the research tracking company Researchfish to report critical comments made by academics regarding Researchfish’s software to UKRI. The agency, in turn, shared some of these comments with the academics’ employers.
Trust is definitely a factor in public life that is incredibly hard to build, very easy to lose and almost impossible to regain. The scandal and furore around Researchfish (UK) is a good example of this. The sharing of negative commentary with funding bodies and employers obviously prompts outraged reactions and accusations of betrayal. These reactions should have been entirely predictable. Any automated sorting and flagging should be trialled and monitored.
Andre Cobb, an organic chemist at King’s College London, tells Chemistry World that he is appalled by Researchfish’s tweets. “This response—automated or not—is clearly intended to stop such criticism by using the implication that funding or future funding might be put into peril.”