Inequality and the ARC

While writing a rejoinder to my Australian Research Council referee reports, it occurred to me what an odd system we have for handing out money to academics. 40% of the funding decision is based on track record, relative to opportunity. In an income distribution sense, this would be like basing 40% of your annual salary on your current wealth (relative to work experience). We know one thing for sure: it’s going to lead to a lot of inequality. If we believe that your current wealth only reflects ability, the money may be going where it will produce most research. But if your research record reflects accidental shocks early in your career (a lucky publication, a fortuitous coauthorship), the ARC system may just magnify those random differences.

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