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P6. Foster collaboration over competition

Research funding is often highly competitive. Funders appear to be privileging competition over collaboration. It is important to remember, however, that competition is not an end in itself, but serves aims and objectives. The purpose of competitive award of research funding is to increase quality. While this aim is achieved through competition, it is important to note that a highly competitive environment is not necessarily conducive to the inclusion of CSOs. These normally do not have the understanding of funding processes required to compete successfully. Moreover, many CSOs have community-based goals and objectives and are therefore not comfortable working in highly competitive environments.

Guiding Questions

Policymakers may want to consider questions like these when developing research policy:
  • How important is CSO input into the funding instrument under consideration?
  • Which quality assurance mechanisms are required?
  • Can collaborative mechanisms or incentives be integrated into the call? 

Example: CSO collaboration in research on ICT for disabled children

One case involved a number of different CSOs that worked together for the benefits of disabled children. The idea was to provide the children with a technical device that could restore some movement to their limbs. The different CSOs in question were all patient or parent organisations whose remit covered the specific disability of the children. This project was largely CSO driven and co-funded by the CSOs. Despite this strong role of CSOs, several respondents remarked that the competitive nature of research and research funding can be detrimental to working with CSOs, in particular those CSOs that have a strong caring focus. The competitive structure of research funding is not necessarily conducive to the inclusion of CSOs that are interested in pursuing the interests of their constituents. It may also not always be conducive to achieving the best research outcomes.

'What is very important for the EU is trying to create a funding mechanism in which it’s actually interesting to work together instead of competing. Because we have to valorise things we want to develop'. (CSO) 

'That’s something - to create an environment where it’s actually stimulated to work together. I don’t know how it should be organised but it would be wonderful if you could sort of facilitate that'. (Project manager)