Key success drivers in public research grants: Funding the seeds of radical innovation in academia?
Professor of Economics
Departament d'Economia i d'Història Econòmica
We analyze whether funding bodies are biased against diverse teams, which have often been linked to the production of transformative research. We develop a general framework that compares the drivers of success in the ex-ante grant decision process to the drivers of success in ex-post performance. We use our framework to systematically analyze the decisions of one of the major public funding organizations for scientific research worldwide, the UKs Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). We fond that structurally diverse teams are not only penalized but are also biased against. Indeed, although teams that exhibit greater diversity in knowledge and skills, education, and/or scientific ability, are significantly less likely to obtain funding, they are generally more likely to be successful. In contrast, demographic diversity, neither in terms of gender, age, or academic rank, does not significantly affect the likelihood of grant approval nor the likelihood of ex-post success. We provide evidence suggesting that funding agencies may be biased against structural diversity, not because applications of diverse teams are more difficult to evaluate, but because they are perceived to be less safe or less doable.
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