Random chances: why research grants should be awarded by lottery

The House of Reps committee inquiring into the “efficiency, effectiveness and coherency” of Commonwealth-funded research convenes in Brisbane this morning, where it will hear from the University of Queensland, Griffith U and QUT, plus a range of specialist lobbies.

Professor Adrian Barnett (statistics, QUT) will also give evidence. With Professor Phillip Clark (economics, UniMelbourne) he submitted ideas on improving the research system including awarding grants via lottery.

“Funding systems are often conservative and award funding to ideas that build incrementally on past work. A lottery would free researchers to pursue ideas with potentially large public benefits and hence may be more effective than current peer review based systems.

Lotteries are certain to be more efficient than current funding systems, as researchers would not need to complete long applications. This would return vast amounts of scientists’ time to their research, which would be of huge benefit to the public.

Lotteries are free from pernicious biases such as sexism, racism and cronyism. This would increase the diversity of Australian scientists and reduce wasted talent,” they propose.

The committee is yet to reveal who it will hear in its Melbourne meet next Monday – but with its manifest taste for fun whoever it is will not be dull.

But there will be no members of the medical science community mightily exercised by the new grants system from the National Health and Medical Research Council.  The committee has made it clear the NHMRC is not being reviewed.

This will confound those med researchers who think theirs is the only research that matters, (Their peak body calls itself https://researchaustralia.org/ )



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