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Funding: Grants by chance


As more funders experiment with awarding grants by lottery, could randomised funding go mainstream?

“Using lotteries for decisions is an old tradition, going back to the ancient Greeks,” says Ulrike Bischler from the Volkswagen Foundation, Germany’s largest private research funder. “If you have rare goods and you can’t share them equally, then a lottery can work.” 

Bischler oversees a research-funding programme that, since 2017, has introduced the element of chance in awarding grants. Not every application gets put into the hat—weaker proposals are filtered out and a review panel chooses the strongest proposals for half of the funding pot. But the other winners are then picked at random from the remaining proposals.

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