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Chapter 5. Toward the Ideal Research Enterprise: Action Recommendations

We offer the following recommendations to stimulate and inform discussions about action that can begin today to move the research enterprise toward the ideal state. Together with the research agenda, these recommendations comprise a balanced strategy for building future knowledge while acting on today's promising ideas.

Document and evaluate different models and philosophies of grants-making

Like all other federal agencies, granting agencies are expected to measure program achievements and process outcomes. An important debate is occurring about what constitutes useful measures of performance for long-term research investments. However, a somewhat easier and very valuable evaluation task could be undertaken today to help us document and better understand the variety of program models in use by different agencies. Comparative assessments of such elements as cost to all participants, openness, time factors, and predictability across the various models now in use would be very informative for all granting agencies. While each agency is well-versed in its own processes and traditions, few are more than generally aware of the strengths and weaknesses of other approaches that they might try. For example, different federal agencies use different strategies for proposal solicitation, review, and selection. A formal evaluation of these strategies and their strengths and weaknesses might foster their appropriate application in new venues, or might improve them through critical review by peers. The challenges of establishing practical comparative metrics and data sources are not trivial, but the learning potential of this kind of evaluation is great.