In Australia, grant reviewers are usually asked to score applications according to three aspects: investigator, project, and research environment. These are usually weighted by something like 40%, 40%, and 20%, respectively. Previously, I wrote how I think the research environment aspect is problematic.
I struggle to see why investigator and project should have equal weighting. For example, consider the following caricatures.
John writes highly polished proposals with well defined projects on important topics. However, he has limited technical expertise relevant to the ambitious goals in the proposal. He also tends to write superficial papers on hot topics.
Joan is not particularly well organised and does not write polished proposals. She does not plan her projects but lets her curiosity and creativity lead her. Although she does not write a lot of papers she has a good track record of moving into new areas and making substantial contributions.
This raises the question of whether we should even forget the project dimension to funding. Suppose you had the following extreme system. You just give the "best" people a grant for three years and they can do whatever they want. Three years later they apply again and are evaluated based on what they have produced. This would encourage more risks and save a lot of time in the grant preparation and evaluation process.
Are there any examples of this kind of "no strings attached" funding? The only examples I can think of are MacArthur Fellows and Royal Society Professorships. However, these are really for stellar senior people.
What do you think?