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Degrees of selectivity

Another topic linked to concentration is the degree of selectivity REIs allow. Should they fund a handful of units with very large sums, or should they support more units, possibly with fewer resources, as long as they are all judged excellent by the selection bodies? Experiences from Germany (Pasternack, 2008) and Korea (Glaser and Weingart, 2010) demonstrate that this issue can have serious political implications. In both countries, the national REIs were designed to provide funds to very few world-class institutions. After protests from political and scientific stakeholders, the schemes became more distributive in nature, funding 85 different centres in 37 universities in Germany, and 519 research units in 74 universities in Korea. In Finland, there was a tendency in the opposite direction when an impact evaluation of the Finnish CoE scheme (Hjelt et al., 2009) advised the Academy of Finland to support fewer centres, each with more funds. This was seen as necessary to achieve permanent benefits from the REI. In Denmark, only four UNIK centres were selected for funding although the ministry had initially planned to fund five to eight units (Glaser and Weingart, 2010, p. 245). The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science sets a strong focus on selectivity though its WPI scheme, which funds no more than six large institutes for top-level research. However, in parallel, its Global COE scheme is much less selective, with less funding per centre. It supports 140 centres at 77 universities with a focus on researcher training. In addition, the very fact of selectivity can influence the international visibility of successful research units. Whereas the monetary resources are decisive for building “critical mass”, the act of awarding a relatively rare accolade (that of being excellent) ensures gains in reputation and thus credibility and access to resources (Weingart, 2010).13

 
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