Designing and Evaluating Research Funding (DERF)


Marco Maria Ottaviani

Associated Investigator

Team member: Jerome Adda


September 2023 - September 2025


Given the non-rival nature of knowledge and innovation governments have long recognized the social value of subsidizing research through a number of tools including research grants support to universities and research prizes. More generally grant schemes are deployed to subsidize innovation and new entrepreneurial ventures. This project develops a structural estimation of the grant making process with the objective of evaluating the performance of current funding schemes and proposing design improvements. The model features potential applicants with possibly noisy information about their own chance of success. (i) To obtain a grant researchers must go through a costly application process by preparing and submitting a project. Preparing an application is costly because of the time required. (ii) The funding agency then evaluates the applications received and chooses those they deem more worthy of funding. The evaluation is made by reviewers with potentially specialized but imperfect expertise. Reviewers typically submit individual evaluation and then convene an overall grade and made a funding recommendation to the agency. Given that preparing an application is costly naturally researchers who think are more likely to pass stage (ii) are more likely to apply in stage (i). How does the current design of awarding mechanisms perform empirically? What is the impact of modifications in the design? We address these questions by combining data from public research repositories with confidential data on applicants and reviews we secured from a number of European research funding agencies. We expect that this rich data will allow to unpack the layers of awarding mechanisms behind grantmaking that take place at the application and the at the evaluation stage. In addition to the counterfactual policy analysis leveraging the structural model the project contains also a number of framed field experiments.

PI: Chiara Franzoni, Politecnico di Milano