In the 1980s, the European Union (EU) started to develop its own technology policy independent from the member states. Since then the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP) has become the major funding scheme in this policy field. With a budget of around 17 billion Euros, the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) provided funding for R&D projects in the years 2002 to 2006. Several attempts have been made recently to assess the impact of FP6 projects. A key interest of these reviews has been to analyse the structure of participation, i.e. who chose to participate and what these participants did achieve. One result is that FP6 projects involved the contribution of excellent scientists, measured in terms of publications and received citations. Another result is that participation seems to be widely regarded as a "quality seal" for the researchers involved. This paper focuses on public science and the role that FP6 played for financing research in relation to other grant sources available to the scientists. In fact, university scientists may typically consider four types of extramural funding schemes. Besides the FP, national governments, foundations, and – not least – industry grants can be significant sources. Although all funding bodies typically apply competitive, merit-based selection procedures, there may be different priorities and success criteria to award a grant. Hence, scientists can be assumed to select the funding source for which they expect the highest "return". More specifically, this paper investigates whether FP6 actually succeeded in attracting the scientific "A Team" given the variety of funding opportunities available to public science, and whether an FP6 participation complements or substitutes other types of grants. Based on a random sample of German scientists at universities and public research institutes, the paper links the scientist's excellence and productivity in terms of publication and patenting activities to the choice of a particular grant. The results indicate that highly credentialed scientists in fact prefer government, foundation and industry grants over FP6. Moreover, FP6 participation seems to substitute for other types of grants. These findings suggest that the FP is in fact the funding instrument for the scientific "B Team" which is in stark contrast to prior reviews of the FP. There seems to be a "division of labour" between the FP, which focuses on rather application-oriented research by mediocre scientists, and the other grant programmes, which clearly focus on scientific excellence. If this is intended to be changed other funding priorities will be required, for example smaller team sizes, no pre-definition of research topics by the European Commission, and a higher quality of the peer review system. However, application-oriented research needs funding too, and the FP seems to be the instrument through which such objectives can be accomplished.

Grimpe, Christoph (2010), Scientific Excellence and Extramural Research Grants: Beggars Can't Be Choosers?, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 10-031, Mannheim, published in: Research Policy. Download


Research funding, scientist productivity, Sixth Framework Programme