Accepted Paper:

Are funding policies about nurturing excellence or rewarding past performance?  


Philippe Mongeon (Université de Montréal)
Vincent Lariviere

Paper short abstract:

The scientific system works optimally when excellence as potential or performance is rewarded. We discuss the role of research funding in this system, current trends in research funding and their potential effect on funding policies’ ability to turn potential into excellence.

Paper long abstract:

The scientific system works optimally when excellence, both as a potential and as a performance, is recognized and rewarded. Since researchers obtain funding in exchange for a "promise" of future accomplishment, it can be seen as being an instrumental form of reward which recognizes excellence as potential. However, the boundaries between these two forms of excellence are blurred when past performance is used as an indicator of the potential for future performance. For example, grant proposals are not evaluated using blind reviews and funding decisions are based not only one the quality of the research proposals but also on the quality of the researchers, which is to a large extent assessed through their past accomplishments. It has been observed that because of the growing scarcity of research funds and the trend towards larger grants, research funding is increasingly playing an honorific rather than instrumental role in the scientific system. Indeed, if we consider an optimal funding policy as one that allows both to sustain researchers' achieved excellence as well to realize researchers' potential for excellence, current trends in funding policy might be favoring the first goal at the expense of the second. Using data on the research funding and the scientific output of researchers in Quebec, we discuss how the effect of current policy trends on the performance of researchers, and how such changes might affect funding policies ability to play an instrumental role in the pursuit of scientific excellence.

Panel T020
Governing Excellent Science