What matters in funding: The value of research coherence and alignment in evaluators' decisions

Charles Ayoubi, Sandra Barbosu, Michele Pezzoni, Fabiana Visentin

Research output: Working paper / PreprintDiscussion paper

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Entrepreneurs, managers, and scientists participate in competitive selection processes to obtain resources. The project they propose is a crucial aspect of their success. In this paper, we focus on the selection of scientists applying for academic funding by submitting a research proposal. We argue that two core dimensions of the research proposal affect the probability of funding success: its coherence with the applicant’s previous work, and its alignment with subjects of general interest for the scientific community. Employing a neural network algorithm, we analyse the text of 2,494 research proposals for a prestigious fellowship awarded to promising early-stage North American researchers. We find field-specific heterogeneity in the committees’ evaluations. In life sciences and chemistry, evaluators value the research proposal’s coherence positively with the scientist’s recent work and the proposals’ alignment with the
current subject of general interest for the scientific community. Conversely, in physics, evaluators give more weight to bibliometric indicators and less to the proposal coherence and alignment. Our results can be extended beyond the academic context to managerial implications in cases such as entrepreneurs and managers submitting project proposals to investors.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUNU-MERIT working papers
Number of pages49
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

SeriesUNU-MERIT Working Papers

JEL classifications

  • i23 - Higher Education and Research Institutions
  • o38 - Technological Change: Government Policy


  • Research trajectories
  • research funding
  • coherence


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