‘Lots of scholarships are fairer, so we will do’

News | Editors

June 29, 2022 † The division of scholarships through assessment and ranking is so arbitrary that it is fairer to solder scholarship money, according to the Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences. That is why the faculty has chosen to distribute one hundred thousand euros of its own money internally by drawing lots, explains Marjolijn Antheunis, vice dean for research.

Photo: Ron Maijen (Wikimedia)

About one hundred thousand euros, which will be distributed internally in the form of grants with the aim of enabling researchers to work together; it does not seem new. At the Faculty of Humanities and Digital at Tilburg University, however, the approach is different than usual. “We will not review and rank the research proposals,” said Marjolijn Antheunis, Deputy Dean of Research. “We will solder the money.”

ScienceGuide has already called for at least part of the research funds to be distributed by drawing lots. An article with a similar appeal was published in the scientific journal Nature. Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences (TSHD) has certainly decided to experiment with lottery tickets. “The lottery has so many benefits that we have to go there more and more,” says Antheunis. “The call for it is growing, but we still see few parties actually taking that step. We must now experiment with that. ”

Scholarships must promote interdisciplinarity

The money is distributed among the respondents on a so-called sed money calls, says Antheunis. A condition for obtaining a grant is a collaboration with a scientist from another faculty. In this way, interdisciplinary collaboration, which is a political point in TSHD, should be stimulated. “We provide small grants that our researchers can apply for with a relatively greater chance of success. The idea is that people will start working together as a result and maybe start bigger research projects from there. ”

Four budget categories are used: up to five thousand, ten thousand, fifteen thousand or twenty thousand euros. In addition, weight is used; applications for a small grant receive more tickets than applications for a large grant.

Distribution of the entire scholarship pool

An important motivation lies in the fact that TSHD wants to move away from a competitive culture and replace it with a sustainable research culture. Therefore, it is explicitly decided to distribute the entire scholarship pool – something that goes even further than the Klaas Visser model, which has previously been widespread on ScienceGuide. In addition, the highest percentiles are honored anyway, the lowest percentiles are dropped, and a draw is made within the large middle bracket. At TSHD, we go with this calls totally for lots. We will first check whether a research proposal meets the criteria and is of acceptable quality, but we do not rank it. Everything goes in the same pot. ”

Of course, TSHD hopes to inspire other faculties, universities and perhaps even the NWO, Antheunis admits. “The idea of ​​evaluating and ranking research proposals, as is done, for example, in NWO committees, seems very reasonable. But each judge sees it from their own background and with their own degree of knowledge and prejudice. This means that you are sometimes blown away by something you know a little about when someone with more knowledge would have seen it as a less good suggestion. The current system has several such facets that make the process arbitrary and not transparent. We often pretend that this is not the case, but we conclude that lottery tickets are fairer and more transparent. ”

After a draw, a winner should not be mistaken and a loser should not be confused as a failure, adds the vice dean of TSHD. “If your proposal has been withdrawn, it means at most that you have been unlucky. Your suggestion was apparently good enough; otherwise it would not have been in the draw. ”

raffle raffle does oversales unnecessary

Just as you can choose to draw lots, you can also do the opposite. Antheunis knows the arguments for this, but does not find them convincing enough. “It is sometimes suggested that drawing lots between research proposals makes us lazy; the incentive to write the best possible research proposal then seems to disappear. However, a good research idea is different from a good research proposal. When one knows that proposals will be ranked, submitters often go to great lengths to polish the proposal as best as possible. to oversellwe call it. Does that make it a good research proposal, or is it good marketing? ”

Nevertheless, writing a high quality research proposal is an important step in good research. If it turns out that lottery work leads to research proposals of lower quality, action can always be taken, says Antheunis.

Leave a Comment