Patrik Hall and Ulf Sandström proposes in his op-ed that the research councils must be closed for the university's best. They write in their article that ”much talk [instead] to rådssystemet leads to violent inefficiency...”, and that advice is mostly to keep the major universities under the arms.
I have a professorship at one of the major universities (Karolinska institutet), but is also active as a doctor and researcher at Örebro university hospital and 3 of my 5 graduate students are enrolled at the university of Örebro. Therefore, I believe I have the ability to small consider Hall/sandström's article from several perspectives.
1 Countries that provide the perplexity, to their universities/researchers, faculties have proved more effective. This quote Hall and Sandström an article by van den Besselaar and Sandström when they claim that research can't predict research success. But if you read the article it says: ”The selected applicants [the funding] have a much higher output in terms of papers” and ”The successful applicants also have a higher score on the various citation-based indicators than the non-successful ones”. This is the researcher's huvudfynd and it seems a little strange to use this as an argument for countries without the research councils would be more efficient (in addition to the fact that you want to put down the Swedish research council on the basis of a survey of 243 Dutch researchers who sought appropriations for fifteen years ago).
But even if Hall and Sandström does not really present any data on actual funding and ”efficiency” in his article, discussed this relationship in a report by Olle Häggbom for Sveriges Universitets - och Högskoleförbund 2014. In the report type Häggbom: ”The statistical analyses Ulf Sandström and Ulf Heyman is trying to do over the forskningsfinansieringssystemen is interesting but they can find no such context explaining the effektivitetsskillnader between the countries.”
the Question then becomes how Hall and Sandström can be argued that the research councils, leads to a ”violent inefficiency of the Swedish research”?
The one who must put things down in writing (apply for funding) are forced to sharpen their ideas, and confront the weaknesses in their project. In the long term, it increases the chances of a well done project.
2 A nuanced discussion about the actual effects. Here I agree with Hall and Sandström. A discussion of the competition is good. There are bad things to put the time in to apply for funding. But nobody can deny that the need to put things down in writing (apply for funding) are forced to sharpen their ideas, and confront the weaknesses in their project. In the long term, it increases the chances of a well done project.
Hall and Sandström says that it is ”foolhardy for Sweden as a research nation to continue to maintain this rådsbyråkrati”. Bureaucracy?? The Swedish research council had, according to its annual report, in 2017, the equivalent of 179 full-time employees. It can be compared with the 5,500 employees at the university of Stockholm.
3 Jävsförhållanden. Yes, there are jävsförhållanden in research. It is in order to minimise conflict of interest, as I örebroare/locals review of ALF applications from Umeå, and as my professorskollega at Karolinska institutet examines cancerfondsansökningar from Norway. We researchers want to be free in our review of others ' research.
Not infrequently uses research councils, foreign reviewer to the heaviest allocations, as illustrated by the fact that an applicant recently was to a research position because he, in contrast to the instructions written his application in Swedish (the reviewers was from the united states and England, they could not Swedish and therefore could not give credit to his application). Here it is difficult to see any närhetsmekanismer.
I do not believe that all the rules for disqualification are complied with, but as the examples above show, there is a quest among the research councils and other research funders (who use competition at the distribution of funds) to avoid a conflict of interest. How Hall and Sandström can believe that närhetsmekanismer would get less importance for that funds allocated by the universities themselves, and within their respective universities is a mystery to me.
I believe in free research, but as a taxpayer, I also want to have value for money and I have chosen the politicians that I have confidence in them.
4 Should politicians get to control the research through the research councils? Well, the question is not so simple. No one wants short-term solutions. But the fact is that, despite everything, is tax money via the research councils are funding the research. I believe in free research, but as a taxpayer, I also want to have value for money and I have chosen the politicians that I have confidence in them.
They want to use bibliometrics (”a corrective in the form of bibliometric monitoring ... is necessary in the context”). I believe in bibliometrics, however, bibliometrics is also a blunt instrument. In this example, Hall and Sandström gives they believe that the smaller universities at a disadvantage (”the [smaller institutions] receive only 4% of the allocation but has 11% of the publications”). But has not the bibliometric research has come further than that we are still just counting the number of publications?
what is the relationship between the appropriations and the science if we instead look at citations? And if that Hall and Sandström only counts publications - should we put the equal sign between an article in Nature/Science and a I J of Informatics? And how should bibliometrin catch up the factors ”interaction with society”, and research relevance? Bibliometrics have their clear merits, but cannot replace the externgranskning of applications.
An evaluation by the research councils, as well as how the universities themselves benefits from their research grants, would be good. But Hall and sandström's op-ed is thin on the argument that the Swedish research funding should change.