Innovating new policy solutions
To innovate new policy solutions, researchers need unrestricted funding that gives them the freedom to pursue novel ideas.
Recent research indicates that unrestricted fellowships funding “people, not projects” are more likely to accelerate scientific innovation, relative to restricted research grants. For example, recipients of fellowships awarded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which “tolerates early failure, rewards long-term success, and gives its appointees great freedom to experiment,” are 96 percent more likely to produce breakthrough research, relative to grantees of the National Institutes of Health, who are “subject to short review cycles, predefined deliverables, and renewal policies unforgiving of failure” (Azoulay et al 2011). Observers have called for increased use of unrestricted fellowships to increase “research autonomy and risk taking” in science (Cowen and Collison 2019).
The Social Science Research Council works with funding partners to design and administer fellowship programs that foster the innovation of new policy solutions to meet our most pressing needs.