Research Funding: the Case for a Modified Lottery

mBio. 2016 Apr 12;7(2):e00422-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00422-16.


The time-honored mechanism of allocating funds based on ranking of proposals by scientific peer review is no longer effective, because review panels cannot accurately stratify proposals to identify the most meritorious ones. Bias has a major influence on funding decisions, and the impact of reviewer bias is magnified by low funding paylines. Despite more than a decade of funding crisis, there has been no fundamental reform in the mechanism for funding research. This essay explores the idea of awarding research funds on the basis of a modified lottery in which peer review is used to identify the most meritorious proposals, from which funded applications are selected by lottery. We suggest that a modified lottery for research fund allocation would have many advantages over the current system, including reducing bias and improving grantee diversity with regard to seniority, race, and gender.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics*
  • Financing, Organized / methods*
  • Financing, Organized / standards
  • Humans
  • Peer Review, Research / methods
  • Peer Review, Research / standards

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.