Funding model and creativity in science: Competitive versus block funding and status contingency effects
In many countries the scientific funding system is shifting from an internal block funding model toward a competitive project funding model. However, there is growing concern that the competitive project funding system favors relatively safe, conventional projects at the expense of risky, novel research. It is important to assess different funding models in order to design better funding systems for science. This paper empirically tests for differences in the novelty of funded outputs between internal block funding and competitive project funding, in the setting of Japan, where both funding models play a significant role. Combining survey data from a large sample of research projects in Japan and bibliometric information about the publications produced from these projects, we find that projects funded by competitive funds on average have higher novelty compared to those funded by internal block funds. However, such positive effects only hold for researchers with high status, such as senior and male researchers. In contrast, compared to internal block funding, competitive project funding has a negative relation to novelty for low status scientists (especially junior and female researchers). The findings suggest that the competitive project selection procedure is less receptive to novel ideas from researchers with low academic status and therefore discourages their novel research. These findings can serve as a warning about potential biases in competitive funding allocation procedures and suggest the importance of secure stable funding for allowing researchers with low status to pursue their novel ideas.