What scientist hasn’t dreamed of spending less time getting funding and more time doing research?
The current academic funding system, which allocates public money to researchers based on the submission and peer review of countless research proposals, has served science well—but some people believe that the time has come to find more efficient ways to distribute the money. Among them is a group of scientists at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Bloomington who proposed a new funding model in an article published last week in EMBO reports.
In "From funding agencies to scientific agency: Collective allocation of science funding as an alternative to peer review," the researchers proposed a funding model that they claim would be simpler, cheaper, and fairer than the traditional funding system, and more amenable to high-risk research and chance discovery. The National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health supported the work.
The researchers based their new model on what they consider the core characteristics of an ideal funding system. As associate professor and first-author Johan Bollen writes in an e-mail to Science Careers, they wanted their new system to "enable scientists to set their own priorities, fund scientists… not projects, avoid proposal writing and reviewing, avoid administrative burdens, encourage all scientists to participate collectively in the definition of scientific priorities, encourage innovation, reward scientists that make significant contributions to data, software, methods, and systems, avoid funding death spirals (no funding -> no research -> no funding) but still reward high levels of productivity, create the proper incentives for scholarly communication (publishing to communicate, not to improve bibliometrics), enable funding of daring and risky research, and so on."