Similar-to-me effects in the grant application process: Applicants, panellists, and the likelihood of obtaining funds

Open Access       

Authors: Albert Banal-Estañol, Qianshuo Liu, Inés Macho-Stadler and David Pérez-Castrillo

R & D Management, Vol. 53, No 5, 819-839, November, 2023

We analyse if and how the characteristics of grant research panels affect the applicants’ likelihood of obtaining funding and, especially, if particular types of panels favour particular types of applicants. We use the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) award decisions to test the similar- to- me hypothesis for the first time in the grant context. Our main results indicate that panel members tend to favour more (or penalise less) applicants with similar characteristics to them, as the similar- to- me hypothesis suggests. We show, for instance, that the quality of the applicants is more critical for panels of high quality than for panels of relatively lower quality, that basic- oriented panels tend to penalise applied-oriented applicants, and that panels with fewer female members tend to penalise teams with more female applicants. As a whole, we show that similar- to- me effects are simultaneously at work for a wide variety of functional, job- related research characteristics as well as for more well- known demographic attributes.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona School of Economics Working Paper 1289