Johan Bollen (left) and Marten Scheffer (right) say scientists should give each other money instead of writing and reviewing grants
AMSTERDAM—Almost every scientist agrees: Applying for research funding is a drag. Writing a good proposal can take months, and the chances of getting funded are often slim. Funding agencies, meanwhile, spend more and more time and money reviewing growing stacks of applications.
That’s why two researchers are proposing a radically different system that would do away with applications and reviews; instead scientists would just give each other money. “Self-organized fund allocation” (SOFA), as it’s called, was developed by computer scientist Johan Bollen at Indiana University in Bloomington. When he first published about the idea in 2014, many people were skeptical. But interest appears to be growing, and thanks to the work of an enthusiastic advocate, ecologist Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the Dutch parliament adopted a motion last year asking the country’s main funding agency, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), to set up a SOFA pilot project.
Competition for funding has become too intense, especially for young scientists, Scheffer and Bollen say, and the current peer-review system is inefficient. It’s also unfair, they argue, because a few scientists get lots of grants—Scheffer is one of them—whereas many others get few or nothing. But when Scheffer explained his idea at an NWO workshop about “application pressure” here last week, the agency didn’t appear sold yet. Read on……………