Funding is the main draw for users of our websites in connection with research and innovation, according to a survey probing people's reasons for coming to Commission sites in connection with the topic. More than 10,000 people responded to the poll, in 24 languages.
Networking and research collaboration also emerged as a top task – so it's not just about the money. But the majority of people are looking for information on funding that is or will be available to fuel research and innovation in Europe.
We had our suspicions, which is why we launched the poll around the same time as the funding and tenders user poll. Earlier research showed the 2 'classes' – task groupings – were strongly connected. Now we have even more evidence that the top tasks within the "Research and innovation" class and the "Funding, Tenders" class overlap significantly.
The 2 biggest tasks for research and innovation, according to users, are to do with securing funding: access to open calls and upcoming calls. Users said the same for "Funding, Tenders". People are more interested in finding out about what opportunities are currently available than in reading about how to apply.
The overlap has impacts for the future architecture of our website, as we'll try to incorporate a 'twinning concept' into the design. For example, as a researcher looking to fund a new project, you might go straight to the funding link on the homepage and then select research and innovation at a lower level. Alternatively, you could go directly to the research and innovation link and then click funding. Either way there are going to be at least 2 paths to find the same target information. One way to make it easier to find the same content via different access points is to insert links to twinned content at these lower levels.
What users want
Users identified 6 'top tasks' in total. Tasks related to funding made up 5 out of the top 6 tasks for research and innovation, while networking and collaborating with fellow researchers came sixth.
- Open calls, current opportunities for funding, grants
- Upcoming calls, opportunities for funding, grants
- Apply for funding (submit an application)
- Funding programmes, instruments, schemes for research and innovation
- How to apply for funding
- Networking, opportunities for collaboration, knowledge-sharing
The top 2 tasks are exactly the same as for the funding and tenders class.
Top interest areas
We asked participants to identify, from a list of 30 areas, which they are most interested in. They could select all that apply. The top interest areas were:
- Research, science, technology and innovation
- Education and training
- Health and social welfare
Interest areas such as trade and consumer rights came lower down in the survey, as we expected. This is logical as there's not as much technical innovation going on in these fields.
The top tasks of getting access to open and upcoming funding calls were the same across the different interest areas, giving consistency.
Staff v users
We carried out an internal poll with 163 staff at the EC. Our staff identified 4 areas as being the most important for users in relation to research and innovation.
Although we knew that funding was important, we didn't get the task priorities spot on. The number 1 task we selected was: 'Apply for funding', with 'How to apply' second.
Areas that we over-rate, like how to apply (+ 120%), are often reflected by an overabundance of content on the current site, whereas areas that we underestimate, such as updates to EU law, standards affecting research and innovation (- 61%), are often underrepresented online. As we transform our web presence, we'll be focusing on whether the amount of content on a certain task is proportionate to its weight in terms of the user need. This is why gathering evidence from real users is integral to the transformation process.
Who took part?
The largest EU countries were the most represented in the survey. English was the dominant 'passive' language, with 93% of users indicating English as their other language option in the poll. This was the highest score of any survey so far.
Around 90% of users said they visit the site either daily or weekly – once people find out about funding, they keep coming back to find out how the Commission can help them achieve their research and innovation goals. But people aren't just looking up calls. A considerable portion of the daily visitors are project managers and administrative staff working on a project.
The majority of respondents were professionals: 85% said they were employed or self-employed, and only 7% students. We expected students to play a bigger role, but in fact it's a relatively small target group.
Of the respondents who are employed or self-employed, around 43% came from the national and regional public sector, with 10% from NGOs and 39% from the private sector. One reason for the high representation of respondents from national public sectors is that it includes people working in universities. Teachers, professors, academics, and researchers in business made up the majority of the professionals contributing.
Our next step is to turn all the rich information gathered into the blueprint structure for the classes "Research and innovation" and "Funding, Tenders". We'll be publishing further updates on the blog as we go.