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The Political Theory of Peer Review for the ERC

European Politics
European Union
Higher Education
Thomas König
Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna
Thomas König
Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna

Abstract

Peer review in research funding has long become the most revered way of decision-making for allocating funds to research. As the allocation of (public) funds is often based on peer review, it also affects the daily routines of researchers across the globe. The impact on science as a whole is often thought to be similarly profound, which is why there is nowadays a considerable interest in peer review in research funding. And many studies on different aspects of peer review have been conducted. At the same time, many critics have summoned the near end of peer review, either because of overburdening the system, or because of failing accuracy. However, critics and analysts have both failed to come up with an argument in order to understand the success of peer review in the first place. This paper makes the core theoretical argument that, besides its many symbolic meanings, which it has acquired over time, peer review relies on its power to legitimize funding decisions in parallel to scientists and to policy-makers. Building on this conceptual clarification, the ERC is taken as a case study to examine the required components of a peer review procedure.