Supply Driven Resource Allocation

Ruttan (pp. 269-70)1 notes that in spite of the problems with congruence methods of priority setting, the basic notion of congruence offers a useful reference point for resource allocation. He suggests that research administrators should be prepared to justify large deviations from congruence. Ruttan notes that research administrators often prefer to focus entirely on supply-driven research agendas, in which nearly all programs are motivated by perceived scientific opportunities. He wryly observes that "there are an infinite number of interesting scientific problems, but not all of them are important"1

To some extent, supply-driven allocation may be embodied in competitive approaches to research funding. For example, some research is funded through a competitive grant-seeking process in which grants are screened and rated by panels of experts. Although this peer review process is valuable, it may tend to reinforce a supply-driven view of research priorities. Such awards panels may tend to support "interesting" research at the expense of research that is useful but unglam-orous. Similarly, in many fields there are substantial professional rewards (e.g., publication, tenure, etc.) that are based on scientific accomplishment rather than on the "importance" of research.

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