Selected responses to 'Fund people not projects' by John P. A. Ioannidis (Nature 477, 529–531; 2011).
Yiding Zhao says:
'Fund people not projects' was once the model used in China, but major international journals frowned on it because it risked creating Xue ba (scientific autocracy that suppresses others' ideas). So we worked hard to adapt the grant-based model. Now you are telling us the grant-based model is worse?
Ken Whitmire says:
A way to fund people rather than projects would be to allocate money directly to individual graduate students and postdocs through fellowships, instead of funnelling it through a principal investigator's grant. This redirection wouldn't cost the system any more money, and it would make it clear to non-scientists that fellowships are funding the training of a highly skilled technical workforce, as well as helping a research enterprise. Students would have more independence in choosing an adviser and advisers would be under less pressure to raise huge sums of money to support an active research group.
Sander Heinsalu says:
Funding models have trade-offs. Detailed checks create bureaucracy, but avoid misuse of money. Specific goals limit creativity, but avoid funding less useful projects. I would like to see scientific evidence on which funding models generate better output — although the best definition of output is also debatable.
Adrian Barnett says:
One option is to fund projects retrospectively, with money being handed out for work delivered (including papers, policy changes, improvements in health), rather than for promises made in grant applications. Most current grant systems are heavily biased towards senior staff, but this scheme would work irrespective of applicants' status. The process would be less burdensome for researchers because it would involve gathering their existing evidence and costs.
Craig Macfarlane says:
The funding model is largely irrelevant — what really matters is the amount of money. Whatever the system is, scientists are smart enough to learn to play it, and it will be dominated by established players who are closest to its centre. The only solutions are for developed countries to increase public funding for research to ensure that it is not just the heavyweights who receive grants, and to support more public-good research. Anything else is just fiddling at the margins. Until that happens (when hell freezes over perhaps), get used to things the way they are.
About this article
To join this debate, go to http://go.nature.com/ciahh5.