Measuring Bias, Burden and Conservatism in Research Funding Processes

Published in: F1000 Research, Volume 8, No. 851 (2019). doi: 10.12688/f1000research.19156.1

Posted on on June 14, 2019

by Daniela Rodriguez-Rincon, Gordon R. McInroy, Becky Ioppolo, Salil Gunashekar

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Grant funding allocation is a complex process that in most cases relies on peer review. A recent study identified a number of challenges associated with the use of peer review in the evaluation of grant proposals. Three important issues identified were bias, burden, and conservatism, and the work concluded that further experimentation and measurement is needed to assess the performance of funding processes.


We have conducted a review of international practice in the evaluation and improvement of grant funding processes in relation to bias, burden and conservatism, based on a rapid evidence assessment and interviews with research funding agencies.


The evidence gathered suggests that efforts so far to measure these characteristics systematically by funders have been limited. However, there are some examples of measures and approaches which could be developed and more widely applied.


The majority of the literature focuses primarily on the application and assessment process, whereas burden, bias and conservatism can emerge as challenges at many wider stages in the development and implementation of a grant funding scheme. In response to this we set out a wider conceptualisation of the ways in which this could emerge across the funding process.

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