Effective operation of competitive research funding systems

Published: 2019

Author: Adam Jaffe

In OECD countries, much science funding is allocated via competitive mechanisms. Competitive funding schemes are widely favoured for being the optimal method for not only evaluating but also encouraging scientific excellence, in a process that is controlled by the community itself. Increasingly however, additional objectives, such as a demand for socio-economic value, are included in the process. The reliance of competitive systems on peer review brings up some concerns about the reliability and validity of evaluation processes in assuring the selection of the best proposals considering the breadth of objectives they are expected to fulfill. Competitive funding processes are also costly, both to awarding agencies and research performers.

This report analyses existing competitive research funding mechanisms and their effectiveness, taking into account a variety of contextual factors. It is aimed both at the research funding community and policy-makers wishing to adapt competitive research funding strategies to different objectives. It includes a number of policy recommendations, which engage different actors and are derived from the analysis including identification of gaps in the available data and information.


OECD (2018), "Effective operation of competitive research funding systems", OECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers, No. 57, OECD Publishing, Paris,https://doi.org/10.1787/2ae8c0dc-en.