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Research excellence initiatives and host institutions

This chapter describes the characteristics of institutions hosting centres of excellence (CoEs) funded through research excellence initiatives (REIs) in ten OECD countries. The survey data are used to provide information on the funding of host institutions (HIs) and CoEs and on their staff. The chapter looks at hosts’ funding strategies, the direct and indirect means of support to CoEs, the way tasks are managed, and the perceived effects of REIs.


This chapter presents the results of the survey to host institutions (HIs) of centres of excellence (CoEs) conducted by the OECD Working Party on Research Institutes and Human Resources (RIHR). The questionnaires were sent either to the director or to high- level staff of an institution that was, at the time, hosting a CoE funded through a national research excellent initiative (REI). Respondents provided information on funding schemes, administrative arrangements and the financial and research objectives of institutions that hosted one (or more) centre(s) of excellence (CoE) during 2011-12. An aim of the survey was to analyse the impact on these institutions of the research units funded by REIs. In addition, the information collected through the survey can help inform discussions on future government policy directions by providing new information on how REIs work and on the functioning and characteristics of institutions that host CoEs funded by REIs.

For the purposes of this study, REIs are characterised by government-level funding to selected research units and institutions (i.e. higher education institutions and public research institutes) for long-term initiatives in order to foster exceptional quality in research and research-related activities. Funding is usually awarded on the basis of peer- reviewed proposals (see Chapters 1 and 2).

Given the limited number of responses, the information obtained from the survey is best seen as offering relatively detailed examples of approaches taken by different organisations in different countries. As in the case of the analysis of CoEs in Chapter 3, it is important to stress that the information presented here should not be regarded as representative of the overall population of CoEs or HIs in OECD countries. In addition, some respondents were only able to reply to certain questions. Incomplete or partial information can create problems when trying to compare the results of specific questions with different response rates. As the number of respondents differs from question to question, so does the size of the sample on which average values are computed; comparison of different items is therefore not always straightforward. Nevertheless, with this in mind, interesting insights can be gained at the aggregate level (and in some cases by splitting the sample along some well-identified dimension).

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