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Project Grant Scheme Evaluation

 O'Donovan, N., McCafferty, AM. (2004) An Evaluation of the Research Project Grants Scheme: June 2004. (pdf)  Dublin: Health Research Board.

Between 1997 and 2003, the HRB awarded €33,133,871 to 376 research project grants. Since 1997, the average amount awarded per grant increased from €31,849 to €137,761. In the same period, the success rate for applications was approximately 25 percent, though this varied from a high of 37 percent in 2001 to only 13 percent in 2003.

In the five years from 1999 to 2003, 173 PhD students were supported through the project grants scheme. A survey of researchers supported through the scheme indicated that the majority were happy with the level and quality of training and supervision received. The number of postdoctoral researchers supported has increased steadily with funding levels.

Based on 2001 and 2002 end of grant reports, the average number of publications per grant was 1.9 and 2.3 respectively, and the average number of peer-reviewed articles was 1.3 and 1.5 respectively.  However, a quarter of grants did not produce any peer-reviewed publications. For grants completed in 2001, 70 percent of PhD students finished their PhD within four years.

The majority of researchers who responded to the questionnaire survey ranked 'funding high quality research' as the highest priority for the scheme.  'Funding new researchers to establish new research groups' was ranked second and 'funding training for postgraduate students' was ranked third, though a number of respondents commented on the interlinked nature of these priorities.

Almost 70 percent of the researchers classified the research funded by the project grants scheme as basic, 34 percent classified it as clinical and 40 percent as applied (note that respondents could select more than one option). Almost three-quarters were satisfied with the coverage of health research.

Almost half were dissatisfied with the level of funding available through the scheme on the grounds that it was insufficient to support an experienced researcher and the student stipend was too low.

The majority of respondents were satisfied with the administration of the scheme but a number were unhappy with the time taken to process applications and the quality of the feedback. The major criticisms of the scheme related to the low success rates, particularly in 2003, the perception that committee members have a better chance of being funded and the inadequate consideration of the international reviews.



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