Our idea in brief: Rethink funding

Research funding determines what is considered good science in the first place, controls future science, and shapes future knowledge. However, meta-science research increasingly shows that funding allocation is inherently biased, leads to non-optimal outcomes, and is very costly (Boytchev 2023; Taffe and Gilpin 2021). Recently, Nature reported about the reassessment of the “cultural unease with collecting information on scientists’ race and ethnicity” in German academia to counter “racist, sexist and classist dynamics (Boytchev 2023). The DFG, Germany’s major funding agency, announced that, “in future, researchers wanting funding will need to address how they are promoting diversity”.

We are concerned that returning the ball to researchers only is not radical enough. We need to completely rethink funding by “test(ing) other models for grant allocation” that are able to promote the inclusion of historically marginalized communities (e.g., female researchers, early-career researchers, researchers with a migration background, researchers with disabilities, researchers of color, and other groups) (Nature editorial 2022).

We introduce a Shiny app to allow researchers, policymakers, and funding agencies to simulate the effects of different funding scenarios, e.g., lotteries as a “tiebreaker” (Nature editorial 2022) in the final decision round or classic funding schemes (e.g., R01, ERC), on costs, diversity, and quality. We urge funding agencies, such as the DFG, NIH, Volkswagen Stiftung, or ERC to increase the transparency of their funding allocation process and to simulate the potential outcomes of their idiosyncratic grant schemes in advance for their potential to increasing diversity in grant allocation.


Our comment, “Rethink funding by putting the lottery first,” by Finn Luebber, Sören Krach, Marina Martinez Mateo, Frieder Paulus, Lena Rademacher, Rima-Maria Rahal, Jule Specht was published online June 22, 2023, in Nature Human Behaviour.



Boytchev, Hristio. 2023. “Diversity in German Science: Researchers Push for Missing Ethnicity Data.” Nature Publishing Group UK. April 5, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-023-00955-9.

Nature editorial. 2022. “The Case for Lotteries as a Tiebreaker of Quality in Research Funding.” Nature 609 (653): 653–653. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-02959-3.

Taffe, Michael A., and Nicholas W. Gilpin. 2021. “Racial Inequity in Grant Funding from the US National Institutes of Health.” ELife 10 (January). https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.6569

Scroll to Top