Alternative funding models for science research

As most scientists know too well, funding a research project is traditionally a time-consuming and complex process that leaves many important projects unfunded.  At, we’re excited to help solve this problem with an entirely new way to fund science.

Recently, we came across a great article discussing the funding problems that scientists face, and possible solutions to that problem.  It’s called “Fund people not projects” by John Ioannidis, and was published last year in Nature.

The article focuses mostly on fixing the existing government-backed funding system.  Here are some of Ioannidis’ ideas for alternative funding strategies:

  • Equally divided funding: Eligible scientists all get funded equally.  Ioannidis explains that the NIH budget of $31.2billion per year for research would give 300,000 researchers over $50,000 a year to conduct their research.
  • Merit-based funding:Through an extensive peer-review, institutions could select scientists who most deserve funding based on an analysis of their overall career trajectories and successes.
    • Automated ranking system: Rather than peer-review, scientists could be rated by an automatic index in order to ensure objective analysis of merit.
  • Random, lottery-driven funding: All researchers desiring funding enter a lottery system and funding is randomly distributed based on the luck of the draw.
  • Broad goal funding: Rather than project-specific grants, funding could be allocated based on the overarching goals of the scientist, with a less specific, less time-consuming account of how exactly the funds will be used to achieve that goal.

While many of these ideas are thought provoking, we think an important part of the solution is increasing public engagement with science and tapping into private donations.  With Petridish, scientists can share their work more broadly and reach new pools of funders.

Let us know: what else do you think could be done to fix our research funding system?

Read “Fund people not projects” here.

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