This is an error in the distribution of research funding

This is an error in the distribution of research funding

From a distance, all grant procedures are the same. You write an offer, you send it to the support provider, and they usually say no, sometimes yes. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see a surprising difference.

In the small difference category: deadline time. Almost every procedure has a deadline for submission. Usually a time is also given by this date. This is often in the middle of the night. Logical, that’s the end of the day. Sometimes it’s five o’clock in the evening. Also understandable, the end of the working day. The most important scholarship provider in the Netherlands Academy

The country, NWO, however, uses a different time: 2 p.m. They’ve been doing this for years, it should be beneficial from an organizational standpoint, but I find it nerve-wracking. Two o’clock in the afternoon isn’t the natural end of anything, so while you’re stressed trying to improve your app, you still have to keep an eye on the clock all the time.

DIY application

This doesn’t always go well. A colleague wrote a nice proposal, wanted to submit it on the date of submission, and logged into the NWO at 3 pm, and then suddenly remembered the deadline policy of the NWO. lost chance.

He wished to apply for a new type of support, called Open Competition SGW-XS. SGW stands for Social Sciences and Humanities, XS stands for Size: 50,000€, for a maximum one-year project – that’s too short for scholars.

Not only is the XS smaller than many other supports, but the rating is also different. Applications are usually evaluated by a committee, often with the assistance of outside experts. Not for the XS application, where applicants are evaluating each other. This greatly speeds up the procedure, because finding external residents takes a lot of time.

All applications are divided into two groups, each applicant from group A evaluates ten applications from group B, and vice versa. So each application receives ten ratings, in the form of a score between 1 and 10, after some calculations the ranking follows, and the NWO is made.

An experiment conducted four times last year. Or three times in fact, since there were so few applicants in the first application round in September that the NWO decided to combine rounds 1 and 2. They could have simply given all applicants a subsidy in the first round, but it seems that the belief in competition is so deep in the NWO that They create artificial scarcity if necessary. Bad luck for round 1 applicants, lucky for my colleague, because the missed deadline was in round 1, so in the end it didn’t matter.

After this merger, I suddenly heard rumors at every research meeting about a new scholarship with very few applicants. Chance for the money! A good scientist is moving on to that, so last spring I also wrote an XS implementation. On April 20, at 1:30 p.m., I submitted; In May, I evaluated ten more applications, and received the results at the beginning of this week. My application has been approved.

Is it really something else?

Since then I’ve been wondering what I think of it. As an applicant, I am very satisfied, but also quite biased. As a reviewer, I was not disappointed. The variety of research proposals was interesting to read, and I had the feeling more than I expected that I could actually separate the good proposals from the lesser ones.

Until now. As much as I appreciate NWO’s willingness to experiment, I think we’re solving the wrong problem here. If you look closely, something changes, but from afar everything remains the same: almost all research money is divided into competitions.

To really do things differently, less money should go to the NWO and more directly to the scientists. So that all scientists have time to do some research every now and then, and no one has to miss the deadline.

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