New Things Under the Sun

Biases Against Risky Research

March 30, 2023 Matt Clancy Season 1 Episode 42
New Things Under the Sun
Biases Against Risky Research
Show Notes

A frequent worry is that our scientific institutions are risk-averse and shy away from funding transformative research projects that are high risk, in favor of relatively safe and incremental science. Why might that be?

Let’s start with the assumption that high-risk, high-reward research proposals are polarizing: some people love them, some hate them. If this is true, and if our scientific institutions pay closer attention to bad reviews than good reviews, then that could be a driver of risk aversion. In this podcast, I look at three channels through which negative assessments may have outsized weight in decision-making, and how this might bias science away from transformative research.

This podcast is an audio read through of the (initial version of the) article Biases Against Risky Research, originally published on New Things Under the Sun.

Articles mentioned
Gross, Kevin, and Carl T. Bergstrom. 2021. Why ex post peer review encourages high-risk research while ex ante review discourages it. PNAS 118(51) e2111615118.

Krieger, Joshua, and Ramana Nanda. 2022. Are Transformational Ideas Harder to Fund? Resource Allocation to R&D Projects at a Global Pharmaceutical Firm. Harvard Business School Working Paper 21-014

Jerrim, John, and Robert Vries. 2020. Are peer reviews of grant proposals reliable? An analysis of Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding applications. The Social Science Journal 60(1): 91-109.

Lane, Jacqueline N., Misha Teplitskiy, Gary Gray, Harder Ranu, Michael Menietti, Eva C. Guinan, and Karim R. Lakhani. 2022. Conservatism Gets Funded? A Field Experiment on the Role of Negative Information in Novel Project Evaluation. Management Science 68(6): 3975-4753.