A new study scopes the issues involved in considering the merits of using prizes to support the objectives of the Department of Health Research and Development Directorate (DH R&D). The study concludes that there is indeed merit in developing incentives to support excellence in health research in addition to “standard” performance management and routine inspection. These could act either to reinforce the signals created by standard metrics (for example, awards recognising the best performers as measured by standard metrics) or they could “fill the gaps” to encourage behaviour not influenced by conventional incentives. This would create an ecosystem to more effectively link reward with motivation, which could deliver benefits for patients and the health care system more widely. Prizes, it is argued, should play a more significant role in the UK health R&D system than in the past but it is not suggested that they replace existing systems to support high-quality research and development.
On the use of performance measures and incentives more generally, we note that, although helpful in many respects, they are incomplete. We looked at non-standard incentives and considered how these could apply to the case of health research and development, concluding that “the prize is right.” Though we have identified potential benefits, this study was not a detailed policy appraisal, and the arguments here should be seen as a stimulus for debate rather than a developed position.