Should we fund research randomly? An epistemological criticism of the lottery model as an alternative to peer-review for the funding of science

Research Evaluation (forthcoming)

Abstract

The way research is, and should be, funded by the public sphere is the subject of renewed interest for sociology, economics, management sciences, and more recently, for the philosophy of science. In this contribution, I propose a qualitative, epistemological criticism of the funding by lottery model, which is advocated by a growing number of scholars as an alternative to peer-review. This lottery scheme draws on the lack of efficiency and of robustness of the peer-review based evaluation to argue that the majority of public resources for basic science should be allocated randomly. I first differentiate between two distinct arguments used to defend this alternative funding scheme based on considerations about the logic of scientific research. To assess their epistemological limits, I then present and develop a conceptual frame, grounded on the notion of “system of practice”, which can be used to understand what precisely it means, for a research project, to be interesting or significant. I use this epistemological analysis to show that the lottery model is not theoretically optimal, since it underestimates the integration of all scientific projects in densely interconnected systems of conceptual, experimental, or technical practices which confer their proper interest to them. I also apply these arguments in order to criticize the classical peer-review process. I finally suggest, as a discussion, that some recently proposed models that bring to the fore a principle of decentralization of the evaluation and selection process may constitute a better alternative, if the practical conditions of their implementation are adequately settled.

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References found in this work

Science, Truth, and Democracy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
Science in a Democratic Society.Philip Kitcher - 2011 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 101:95-112.
Science, Truth, and Democracy.A. Bird - 2003 - Mind 112 (448):746-749.

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Citations of this work

Why Citizen Review Might Beat Peer Review at Identifying Pursuitworthy Scientific Research.Carlos Santana - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 92:20-26.

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