Building the case for the egalitarian distribution of research funds

18 Sep 2017

Equal distribution of research money among researchers might be more feasible than we think according to new research published by Dr Krist Vaesen from Eindhoven University of Technology, and Dr Joel Katzav from UQ’s School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.

In a paper published in PLOS One, the pair show for the Netherlands, the U.S. and the U.K., that if competitive government research money were equally distributed among researchers, each researcher could maintain current PhD student and Postdoc employment levels, and still have at their disposal a moderate to considerable budget for travel and equipment.

Dr Katzav said the data suggested that the same would apply if one differentiated between researchers working in low-cost, intermediate-cost and high-cost disciplines.

“The challenges facing competitive funding schemes, the advantages that egalitarian sharing might bring with it along with the evidence that a more egalitarian distribution of funds than is the norm is feasible, suggests that policy makers should take egalitarian approaches seriously,” he said.

Over the last two decades, funding agencies have converged on grant-giving schemes in which large sums of money are allocated to a select few.

Dr Joel Katzav

But various flaws have been found in such highly competitive funding systems and the process of peer review that these systems rely on has been shown to be unreliable, unacceptably biased (e.g., with respect to gender, ethnicity and affiliation), and excessively costly.

“It has been suggested that these schemes are not sufficiently open to new views. In fact, some evidence suggests that awarding large grants to a select few is ineffective. For example, those awarded large grants do not perform particularly well when compared to failed applicants.” Dr Katzav said.

There has been strong resistance to reducing the competitiveness of dominant funding schemes with a common objection that doing so would lead to an unacceptable dilution of resources.

“Our results suggest that there is room for far more egalitarian distribution of funds than happens in the highly competitive funding environment of today,” Dr Katzav said.

Read the article in full - How much would each researcher receive if competitive government research funding were distributed equally among researchers?

Media -  Dr Joel Katzav, +61 7 336 52191 /