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Defining criteria for REIs in this report

The criteria used to identify REIs are as follows, with explanatory comments:

  • • REIs are a form of government-level funding provided to selected research units and institutions. This distinguishes REI funding from institutional core funding, as it is not provided to all institutions, and from forms of funding that go to individuals, e.g. project funding for individual researchers.
  • • REIs foster exceptional quality in research and research-related activities.

Funding is not provided to all research units, but only those considered exceptional on the basis of an assessment of excellence. In most cases other criteria are also applied in the selection process, e.g. provisions for the application of results or a specific focus on young researchers.

  • • Funding is long-term. It was agreed that the duration should be a minimum of four years.1 Successful research units receive a secure grant for a prolonged period of time on the assumption that this will help create an environment in which excellent research can flourish.
  • • REI funds are competitive and are distributed on the basis of peer-reviewed applications. Judgements of excellence are made by peers and are not, for instance, solely based on metrics. The peers assess competing applications for funding.
  • • Applicants are required to participate in selection processes with fixed time frames. The selection process distinguishes REIs from institutional core funding. The criterion of “fixed time frames” sets REIs apart from forms of funding for which proposals can be submitted at any time. The competitive aspect of REIs implies that application rounds are rare, so that direct comparison of a large number of applicants is possible. In this study, only schemes in which calls for application are issued once every two years, or more rarely, are considered.2
  • • Institutions or research units (as opposed to individuals) apply for the funds.

It is an explicit or implicit goal of REIs to strengthen institutions’ ability to take strategic action, particularly with respect to the areas of research that receive special attention and to the organisation of research within the institutions. For this reason, and in order to be able to distinguish REIs from traditional forms of project funding, only funding schemes for which applications had to be approved by the executive management were considered.

• Substantially more funds are provided than for individual project-based funding. The research units funded under REIs, often called “centres”, are designed to encompass large groups of researchers, often from different disciplines and different institutions. From this it follows that the funds provided are also more substantial. As will be seen, the large-scale funding of REIs is tied to the intention to affect the national science system as a whole. It can be assumed that a minimum amount of funding must be provided to supported units to reach this goal. As it is difficult to operationalise the criterion “substantially more funds than in project-based funding” in a case-specific manner, a general lower limit of USD 1 million of funding a year per centre was set.3 Typically, the funds are significantly larger (see Table 2A.1.2 in Annex 2.A1).

Other funding instruments may also use these criteria, particularly target agreements and large-scale project funding. However, it is the combination of all of the criteria and the selection of exceptional research units for the strategic, long-term development of excellence in a national research landscape that make REIs a specific instrument.

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