Is research funding always beneficial? A cross-disciplinary analysis of UK research 2014-20
Font-Julián, Cristina I.
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AbstractWhilst funding is essential for some types of research and beneficial for others, it may constrain academic choice and creativity. Thus, it is important to check whether it ever seems unnecessary. Here we investigate whether funded UK research tends to be higher quality in all fields and for all major research funders. Based on peer review quality scores for 113,877 articles from all fields in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, we estimate that there are substantial disciplinary differences in the proportion of funded journal articles, from Theology and Religious Studies (16%+) to Biological Sciences (91%+). The results suggest that funded research is likely to be higher quality overall, for all the largest research funders, and for 30 out of 34 REF Units of Assessment (disciplines or sets of disciplines), even after factoring out research team size. There are differences between funders in the average quality of the research supported, however. Funding seems particularly associated with higher research quality in health-related fields. The results do not show cause and effect and do not take into account the amount of funding received but are consistent with funding either improving research quality or being won by high quality researchers or projects.
CitationThelwall, M., Kousha, K., Abdoli, M., Stuart, E., Makita, M., Font-Julián, C.I., Wilson, P. and Levitt, J. (2023) Is research funding always beneficial? A cross-disciplinary analysis of UK research 2014-20. Quantitative Science Studies, 1-41, https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00254
JournalQuantitative Science Studies
DescriptionThis is an accepted manuscript of an article published by MIT Press on 01/04/2023, available online: https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00254 The accepted version of the publication may differ from the final published version.
SponsorsThis study was funded by Research England, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland as part of the Future Research Assessment Programme (https://www.jisc.ac.uk/future-research-assessment-programme).
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
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