Using democracy to award research funding: an observational study.
ABSTRACT: Background:Winning funding for health and medical research usually involves a lengthy application process. With success rates under 20%, much of the time spent by 80% of applicants could have been better used on actual research. An alternative funding system that could save time is using democracy to award the most deserving researchers based on votes from the research community. We aimed to pilot how such a system could work and examine some potential biases. Methods:We used an online survey with a convenience sample of Australian researchers. Researchers were asked to name the 10 scientists currently working in Australia that they thought most deserved funding for future research. For comparison, we used recent winners from large national fellowship schemes that used traditional peer review. Results:Voting took a median of 5 min (inter-quartile range 3 to 10 min). Extrapolating to a national voting scheme, we estimate 599 working days of voting time (95% CI 490 to 728), compared with 827 working days for the current peer review system for fellowships. The gender ratio in the votes was a more equal 45:55 (female to male) compared with 34:66 in recent fellowship winners, although this could be explained by Simpson's paradox. Voters were biased towards their own institution, with an additional 1.6 votes per ballot (inter-quartile range 0.8 to 2.2) above the expected number. Respondents raised many concerns about the idea of using democracy to fund research, including vote rigging, lobbying and it becoming a popularity contest. Conclusions:This is a preliminary study of using voting that does not investigate many of the concerns about how a voting system would work. We were able to show that voting would take less time than traditional peer review and would spread the workload over many more reviewers. Further studies of alternative funding systems are needed as well as a wide discussion with the research community about potential changes.
Project description:Human rationality--the ability to behave in order to maximize the achievement of their presumed goals (i.e., their optimal choices)--is the foundation for democracy. Research evidence has suggested that voters may not make decisions after exhaustively processing relevant information; instead, our decision-making capacity may be restricted by our own biases and the environment. In this paper, we investigate the extent to which humans in a democratic society can be rational when making decisions in a serious, complex situation-voting in a local political election. We believe examining human rationality in a political election is important, because a well-functioning democracy rests largely upon the rational choices of individual voters. Previous research has shown that explicit political attitudes predict voting intention and choices (i.e., actual votes) in democratic societies, indicating that people are able to reason comprehensively when making voting decisions. Other work, though, has demonstrated that the attitudes of which we may not be aware, such as our implicit (e.g., subconscious) preferences, can predict voting choices, which may question the well-functioning democracy. In this study, we systematically examined predictors on voting intention and choices in the 2014 mayoral election in Taipei, Taiwan. Results indicate that explicit political party preferences had the largest impact on voting intention and choices. Moreover, implicit political party preferences interacted with explicit political party preferences in accounting for voting intention, and in turn predicted voting choices. Ethnic identity and perceived voting intention of significant others were found to predict voting choices, but not voting intention. In sum, to the comfort of democracy, voters appeared to engage mainly explicit, controlled processes in making their decisions; but findings on ethnic identity and perceived voting intention of significant others may suggest otherwise.
Project description:Undecided voters represent a major challenge to political pollsters. Recently, political psychologists have proposed the use of implicit association tests (IAT) to measure implicit attitudes toward political parties and candidates and predict voting behavior of undecided voters. A number of studies have shown that both implicit and explicit (i.e., self-reported) attitudes contribute to the prediction of voting behavior. More importantly, recent research suggests that implicit attitudes may be more useful for predicting the vote of undecided voters in the case of specific political issues rather than elections. Due to its direct-democratic political system, Switzerland represents an ideal place to investigate the predictive validity of IATs in the context of political votes. In this article, I present evidence from three studies in which both explicit and implicit measures were used ahead of the vote on four different referendums. Explicit measures predicted voting better than implicit attitudes for decided voters while implicit and explicit attitudes were equally good predictors among undecided voters. In addition, implicit attitudes predicted voting behavior descriptively, but not significantly better for undecided voters while, also from a descriptive point of view, explicit attitudes predicted voting better for decided respondents. In sum, results suggest that, as argued in previous research, the predictive value of implicit attitudes may be higher in the context of issue-related votes but still not as high as initially hoped-for.
Project description:Much has been written on the positive effect of direct democracy (initiatives, referendums) on voter turnout. However, we have limited knowledge about potential differential effects on voters belonging to various ethnic groups. The paper argues that depending on a group's responsiveness to the political context, direct democracy can (dis-)integrate voters (from) into the electorate. Empirical analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) voting supplement survey data, together with data on the absolute use of direct democracy across US states, corroborates this theoretical expectation, however lending more support for the disintegrating assumption. Frequent direct democratic elections further widen the negative voting gap between first-generation Asian voters and voters living in the US for three generations or longer, whereas they tend to diminish this voting gap for first-generation Hispanic voters. The disintegrative pattern for first-generation Asian voters remains even significant when excluding California from the state sample, yet not the integrative tendency for first-generation Hispanics. Additional analyses using alternative measures of direct democracy and voting, and applying statistical adjustments to address causality concerns, confirm the robustness of these findings, which shed light on the so-far underexplored (dis-)integrative potential of political institutions.
Project description:Background:In democracies, voting is an important action through which citizens engage in the political process. Although elections are only one aspect of political engagement, voting sends a signal of support or dissent for policies that ultimately shape the social determinants of health. Social determinants subsequently influence who votes and who does not. Our objective is to examine the existing research on voting and health and on interventions to increase voter participation through healthcare organizations. Methods:We conducted a scoping review to examine the existing research on voting, health, and interventions to increase voter participation through healthcare organizations. We carried out a search of the indexed, peer-reviewed literature using Ovid MEDLINE (1946-present), PsychINFO (1806-present), Ebsco CINAHL, Embase (1947-present), Web of Science, ProQuest Sociological Abstracts, and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts. We limited our search to articles published in English. Titles and abstracts were reviewed, followed by a full-text review of eligible articles and data extraction. Articles were required to focus on the connection between voting and health, or report on interventions that occurred within healthcare organizations that aimed to improve voter engagement. Results:Our search identified 2041 citations, of which 40 articles met our inclusion criteria. Selected articles dated from 1991-2018 and were conducted primarily in Europe, the USA, and Canada. We identified four interrelated areas explored in the literature: (1) there is a consistency in the association between voting and health; (2) differences in voter participation are associated with health conditions; (3) gaps in voter participation may be associated with electoral outcomes; and (4) interventions in healthcare organizations can increase voter participation. Conclusion:Voting and health are associated, namely people with worse health tend to be less likely to engage in voting. Differences in voter participation due to social, economic, and health inequities have been shown to have large effects on electoral outcomes. Research gaps were identified in the following areas: long-term effects of voting on health, the effects of other forms of democratic engagement on health, and the broader impact that health providers and organizations can have on voting through interventions in their communities.
Project description:Comparative effectiveness research (CER) is intended to address the expressed needs of patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders. Representatives of 54 stakeholder groups with an interest in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) participated in workshops convened by the COPD Outcomes-based Network for Clinical Effectiveness and Research Translation (CONCERT) over a 2-year period. Year 1 focused on chronic care and care coordination. Year 2 focused on acute care and transitions in care between healthcare settings. Discussions and provisional voting were conducted via teleconferences and e-mail exchanges before the workshop. Final prioritization votes occurred after in-person discussions at the workshop. We used a modified Delphi approach to facilitate discussions and consensus building. To more easily quantify preferences and to evaluate the internal consistency of rankings, the Analytic Hierarchy Process was incorporated in Year 2. Results of preworkshop and final workshop voting often differed, suggesting that prioritization efforts relying solely on requests for topics from stakeholder groups without in-person discussion may provide different research priorities. Research priorities varied across stakeholder groups, but generally focused on studies to evaluate different approaches to healthcare delivery (e.g., spirometry for diagnosis and treatment, integrated healthcare strategies during transitions in care) rather than head-to-head comparisons of medications. This research agenda may help to inform groups intending to respond to CER funding opportunities in COPD. The methodologies used, detailed in the online supplement, may also help to inform prioritization efforts for CER in other health conditions.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>To estimate the time spent by the researchers for preparing grant proposals, and to examine whether spending more time increase the chances of success.<h4>Design</h4>Observational study.<h4>Setting</h4>The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia.<h4>Participants</h4>Researchers who submitted one or more NHMRC Project Grant proposals in March 2012.<h4>Main outcome measures</h4>Total researcher time spent preparing proposals; funding success as predicted by the time spent.<h4>Results</h4>The NHMRC received 3727 proposals of which 3570 were reviewed and 731 (21%) were funded. Among our 285 participants who submitted 632 proposals, 21% were successful. Preparing a new proposal took an average of 38 working days of researcher time and a resubmitted proposal took 28 working days, an overall average of 34 days per proposal. An estimated 550 working years of researchers' time (95% CI 513 to 589) was spent preparing the 3727 proposals, which translates into annual salary costs of AU$66 million. More time spent preparing a proposal did not increase the chances of success for the lead researcher (prevalence ratio (PR) of success for 10 day increase=0.91, 95% credible interval 0.78 to 1.04) or other researchers (PR=0.89, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.17).<h4>Conclusions</h4>Considerable time is spent preparing NHMRC Project Grant proposals. As success rates are historically 20-25%, much of this time has no immediate benefit to either the researcher or society, and there are large opportunity costs in lost research output. The application process could be shortened so that only information relevant for peer review, not administration, is collected. This would have little impact on the quality of peer review and the time saved could be reinvested into research.
Project description:The Benjamin H. Kean Fellowship in Tropical Medicine is an American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene initiative that provides medical students with funding for international clinical or research experiences lasting at least 1 month. Of the 175 Kean fellows from 1998 to 2013, 140 had current available e-mails, and 70 of the 140 (50%) responded to a survey about their fellowship experience. Alumni indicated that the Kean Fellowship had a high impact on their career plans with regard to preparation for (<i>N</i> = 65, 94.2%) and inspiration to pursue (<i>N</i> = 59, 88.1%) a career in tropical medicine and global health. Continued involvement in tropical medicine and global health was common: 52 alumni (74.3%) were currently working in tropical medicine or global health, 49 (71.0%) had done so in the interim between the Kean fellowship and their current position; and 17 of 19 Kean fellows (89.4%) who had completed all medical training and were now in professional practice continued to work in tropical medicine and global health. Alumni had been highly productive academically, publishing a total of 831 PubMed-indexed manuscripts, almost all on tropical medicine or global health topics, in the period between their fellowship year and 2013. Alumni reported strengths of the fellowship including funding, networking, and flexibility, and suggested that more networking and career mentoring would enhance the program. The Benjamin H. Kean fellowship program has been highly successful at inspiring and fostering ongoing work by trainees in tropical medicine and global health.
Project description:A classic thesis is that scientific achievement exhibits a "Matthew effect": Scientists who have previously been successful are more likely to succeed again, producing increasing distinction. We investigate to what extent the Matthew effect drives the allocation of research funds. To this end, we assembled a dataset containing all review scores and funding decisions of grant proposals submitted by recent PhDs in a €2 billion granting program. Analyses of review scores reveal that early funding success introduces a growing rift, with winners just above the funding threshold accumulating more than twice as much research funding (€180,000) during the following eight years as nonwinners just below it. We find no evidence that winners' improved funding chances in subsequent competitions are due to achievements enabled by the preceding grant, which suggests that early funding itself is an asset for acquiring later funding. Surprisingly, however, the emergent funding gap is partly created by applicants, who, after failing to win one grant, apply for another grant less often.
Project description:Excess mortality in marginalized populations could be both a cause and an effect of political processes. We estimate the impact of mortality differentials between blacks and whites from 1970 to 2004 on the racial composition of the electorate in the US general election of 2004 and in close statewide elections during the study period. We analyze 73 million US deaths from the Multiple Cause of Death files to calculate: (1) Total excess deaths among blacks between 1970 and 2004, (2) total hypothetical survivors to 2004, (3) the probability that survivors would have turned out to vote in 2004, (4) total black votes lost in 2004, and (5) total black votes lost by each presidential candidate. We estimate 2.7 million excess black deaths between 1970 and 2004. Of those, 1.9 million would have survived until 2004, of which over 1.7 million would have been of voting-age. We estimate that 1 million black votes were lost in 2004; of these, 900,000 votes were lost by the defeated Democratic presidential nominee. We find that many close state-level elections over the study period would likely have had different outcomes if voting age blacks had the mortality profiles of whites. US black voting rights are also eroded through felony disenfranchisement laws and other measures that dampen the voice of the US black electorate. Systematic disenfranchisement by population group yields an electorate that is unrepresentative of the full interests of the citizenry and affects the chance that elected officials have mandates to eliminate health inequality.
Project description:<h4>Importance</h4>In the U.S. presidential election of 2016, substantial shift in voting patterns occurred relative to previous elections. Although this shift has been associated with both education and race, the extent to which this shift was related to public health status is unclear.<h4>Objective</h4>To determine the extent to which county community health was associated with changes in voting between the presidential elections of 2016 and 2012.<h4>Design</h4>Ecological study with principal component analysis (PCA) using principal axis method to extract the components, then generalized linear regression.<h4>Setting</h4>General community.<h4>Participants</h4>All counties in the United States.<h4>Exposures</h4>Physically unhealthy days, mentally unhealthy days, percent food insecure, teen birth rate, primary care physician visit rate, age-adjusted mortality rate, violent crime rate, average health care costs, percent diabetic, and percent overweight or obese.<h4>Main outcome</h4>The percentage of Donald Trump votes in 2016 minus percentage of Mitt Romney votes in 2012 ("net voting shift").<h4>Results</h4>Complete public health data was available for 3,009 counties which were included in the analysis. The mean net voting shift was 5.4% (+/- 5.8%). Of these 3,009 counties, 2,641 (87.8%) had positive net voting shift (shifted towards Trump) and 368 counties (12.2%) had negative net voting shift (shifted away from Trump). The first principal component ("unhealthy score") accounted for 68% of the total variance in the data. The unhealthy score included all health variables except primary care physician rate, violent crime rate, and health care costs. The mean unhealthy score for counties was 0.39 (SD 0.16). Higher normalized unhealthy score was associated with positive net voting shift (22.1% shift per unit unhealthy, p < 0.0001). This association was stronger in states that switched Electoral College votes from 2012 to 2016 than in other states (5.9% per unit unhealthy, p <0.0001).<h4>Conclusions and relevance</h4>Substantial association exists between a shift toward voting for Donald Trump in 2016 relative to Mitt Romney in 2012 and measures of poor public health. Although these results do not demonstrate causality, these results suggest a possible role for health status in political choices.