Research Capacity Building: Does History Really Matter?

By Karen E Mow and David Tait.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Research capacity and productivity is affected by the financial support offered by research councils that award competitive grant funding. Such funding is highly contested and leads to much discussion about the integrity of selection processes, assessor competence and impacts on research capacity. This paper draws upon both qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate that there are differences across selection panels and research councils. The ARC and NHMRC (Australia) place considerable emphasis on past performance exemplified through track record. However, panels working within the EPSRC (UK) and the NSF (USA) rely less on track record in making decisions about excellence. They judge proposals on relevance to the discipline and the country, and Investigator track record is only of interest to ensure the project can be delivered. The data collected for this research demonstrate that one of the pivotal drivers of selection is the number of applications that a panel has to review. This affects what information a panel can use to ensure that the task gets done within the time allocated. The paper proposes that the way peer review has been operationalised determines which factors have the highest value for panel members to use in selection. The conclusion is that it matters how peer review is conceptualised and operationalised and these choices affect the growth of research capacity, with particular impact on early career researchers and others seeking admission to the grant-holder caste.

Keywords: Research Funding, Research Capacity Building, Peer Review, Research Councils, Selection Panels, International Comparative Data

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 5, pp.215-222. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 587.716KB).

Dr. Karen E Mow

Senior Lecturer, Division of Business, Law and Information Sciences, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia

After ten years as program and policy manager in the peak Australian research councils, Karen Mow was appointed research development advisor at the University of Canberra. Her primary focus is research capacity building, including, enabling the development, writing and success of applications for research funding.

Dr. David Tait

Associate Professor, School of Law, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia

Associate Professor Tait specialises in interdisciplinary research on justice environments. He leads several large research projects which involve researchers and practitioners from seven discipline areas: law, architecture, communications, forensic science, psychology, criminology and management. His research is based on analysis of symbols and their meanings. His current research team is building new knowledge about architectural psychology.

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