Science rules! A qualitative study of scientists’ approaches to grant lottery

Author : Axel Philipps

Using peer review to assess the validity of research proposals has always had its fair share of critics, including a more-than-fair-share of scholars. The debate about this method of assessing these proposals now seems trivial when compared with assessing the validity for granting funding by lottery.

Some of the same scholars have suggested that the way grant lottery was being assessed has made random allocation seem even-handed, less biased and more supportive of innovative research.

But we know little of what researchers actually think about grant lottery and even less about the thoughts of those scientists who rely on funding. This paper examines scientists’ perspectives on selecting grants by ‘lots’ and how they justify their support or opposition.

How do they approach something scientifically that is, in itself, not scientific? These approaches were investigated with problem-centered interviews conducted with natural scientists in Germany.

The qualitative interviews for this paper reveal that scientists in dominated and dominating field positions are, more or less, open to the idea of giving a selection process by lots a try. Nonetheless, they are against pure randomization because from their point of view it is incompatible with scientific principles.

They rather favor a combination of grant lottery and peer review processes, assuming that only under these conditions could randomly allocated funding be an integral and legitimate part of science.

URL : Science rules! A qualitative study of scientists’ approaches to grant lottery