Funding rates in the US are declining. Even if NSF gets a little boost to its budget, the situation will remain grim in the United States and many places beyond.
For every funded project, there are many other meritorious and important projects that go unfunded. At least in my subfields in the USA, government funding tends to be feast-or-famine: there are haves and the have-nots. With simultaneous strokes of skill and luck, you can get funded. But with a stroke or two in the other direction, you can end up cashless.
So what to do about declining funding rates? Last year, Brian McGill of Dynamic Ecology ran a poll and then evaluated the results. A drop in award sizes, to increase the number of awards, was a popular option. I now want to ask: okay, how much? Where do your preferences lie on the scale?
Going with generalizations from historical data (following the practice of McGill), let’s just say that average award sizes (in biology) are $500,000 over three years, with a funding rate of 7.5%.
If you were the Grand Master of Funding Rates, how would you tweak risk and reward for 3-year projects?
Of course, if funding rates increase and award sizes drop, then behavioral ecology theory suggests that we would see an increase in the number of proposals and a decline in the quality of the proposals. That presumably could be factored into a more complex model. But if we just broadly look at how many people are submitting and how much they get, given the amount of current competition and current funding, what are your preferences?
Using this coarse measure, I am really interested where the sweet spot might be — whether as a community, we want to spend less time writing proposals, and spend more time doing science with less money. This is what I hear the situation is like with NSERC in Canada. Thoughts, insights, reasons you chose a particular option?