Research Councils and Resource Allocation Committees: A Comparative Analysis
Ciencia Política y Sociología Universidad Carlos III de Madrid Getafe, Spain
Research councils are not the only source of resources for science. Very often, researchers depend on non-monetary resources such as beam-time in a particle accelerator, a neutron jet in a spallation source, or observation time in an orbiting telescope. Resource Allocation Committees (RACs), offices devoted to non-monetary resource allocation, are widespread in the world of science and are key in the management of large infrastructures, both for big science or domestic projects, and for academic or industrial research. But do RACs work just like research councils? Do they occupy the same position in the boundary between science and government? Do they play the same role in the reward system of science?
Little has been written about this particular science institution. This article is a first attempt to compare the structure and operation of RACs with research councils. Although the focus is on big science and international cooperative projects, a broad typology is developed based on the nature of the allocated resources and their flexibility: whether they are monetary or not; the scarcity of the resource; the elasticity and nature of the demand for the resource (public ,private, basic, applied, field of research); the degree of competitiveness of the resource allocation; the prioritization of the lines of research and the influence of political factors; and ownership of the installation.