Cost of the NSERC Science Grant Peer Review System exceeds the cost of giving every qualified researcher a baseline grant

Account Res. 2009 Jan-Mar;16(1):13-40. doi: 10.1080/08989620802689821.


Using Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Canada (NSERC) statistics, we show that the $40,000 (Canadian) cost of preparation for a grant application and rejection by peer review in 2007 exceeded that of giving every qualified investigator a direct baseline discovery grant of $30,000 (average grant). This means the Canadian Federal Government could institute direct grants for 100% of qualified applicants for the same money. We anticipate that the net result would be more and better research since more research would be conducted at the critical idea or discovery stage. Control of quality is assured through university hiring, promotion and tenure proceedings, journal reviews of submitted work, and the patent process, whose collective scrutiny far exceeds that of grant peer review. The greater efficiency in use of grant funds and increased innovation with baseline funding would provide a means of achieving the goals of the recent Canadian Value for Money and Accountability Review. We suggest that developing countries could leapfrog ahead by adopting from the start science grant systems that encourage innovation.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Financing, Government / economics*
  • Financing, Government / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Peer Review, Research*
  • Research Personnel / economics*
  • Research Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Research Support as Topic / economics*
  • Research Support as Topic / statistics & numerical data