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Why draw lots? Funder motivations for using partial randomisation to allocate research grants (RoRI Working Paper No.7)

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posted on 08.12.2021, 12:36 by Helen Buckley WoodsHelen Buckley Woods, James WilsdonJames Wilsdon
Both the strengths and the shortcomings of peer review as a means of assessing quality and determining funding decisions continue to be debated by many stakeholders in the research system.

The use of partial randomisation in grant allocation is a relatively new approach and not yet part of mainstream practice, so there is limited research on the topic. Whilst some authors point to partial randomisation as a possible solution to the shortcomings of peer review in grant allocation, its effectiveness has yet to be determined. It may also prove difficult to assess the effect of interventions where pilots are part of new funding schemes that self-evidently lack existing evaluation data.

It is clear that what is most desirable and beneficial for the research community is empirical research that can assess the effectiveness of the method across multiple funding organisations.

One area where there is a gap in the existing literature is in the exploration of institutional motivations for the use of partial randomisation. Moreover, to complement the results of current pilot evaluations there is value in a comparative approach, looking at motivations, drivers and constraints across funding organisations.

This is a small-scale qualitative study using ‘key informant’ individual interviews in six research funding agencies, across six different countries, in order to explore and expand our understanding of motivations and restraining factors for the use of partial randomisation in grant allocation.

A hallmark of any RoRI project is its collaborative nature, involving different stakeholders in the research system. The design of this study is a product of this collaborative approach, realised through bilateral conversations, group discussions, a kick-off workshop, and consultation with strategic partners.

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