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Beating the odds

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How to get the measure of dispiriting success rates

Success rates are usually depressing statistics. In extreme cases, they fail to break single digits. But if you’ve got a good idea that fits with such a scheme, I’d urge you not to get discouraged too quickly. Here’s why.

I would argue that it’s worth thinking in terms of two different success rates. The first is the statistical success rate: total number of awards divided by the total number of applications. The second is the number of awards divided by the number of fundable applications—and that number, which is logically higher than the first, is rarely if ever communicated.

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