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The Austrian Science Fund. Ex-Post Evaluation and Performance of FWF funded Research Projects

Dinges, Michael

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is Austria’s major agency for competitive basic research funding and has been subject to several external evaluations within the last 2 years. In the course of the Evaluation of the Austrian Industrial Research Promotion Fund (FFF) and the Austrian Science Fund (2003/2004), FWF’s governance and processes [Van der Meulen (2004)], and an Impact Analysis [Sreicher et al., (2004)], which mainly aimed at identifying parameters which influence the funding decisions of the FWF, have been conducted. Zinöcker and Dinges (2004) have highlighted the position of FWF’s funding instruments in the context of other R&D funding agencies and instruments in Austria. Furthermore, PREST and Fraunhofer (2004) have recently evaluated the thematic "Research Network Programmes" and an evaluation of the international mobility grant programme "Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship is currently being performed".

The present study aims to appraise the performance of FWF funded projects within the grant scheme of stand-alone projects (Einzelprojekte), which constitutes the core research funding of FWF, accounting for about two-thirds of FWF’s budget in 2004. The emphasis of the study is to identify the inter-relation between ex ante and ex post evaluation, and to identify critical factors that influence the results of the ex post evaluation. Furthermore, the study examines relevance and appropriateness of FWF’s ex post project evaluation procedure.

For the Austrian Science Fund the study should offer valuable clues to improve the quality of its processes and project evaluations. Furthermore, the study should deepen the knowledge on the effects of FWF’s research funding particularly with regard to the legitimation of its funding, and with regard to future modifications that improve onitoring System and funding processesrespectively.

Therefore, the present study also revisited FWF’s funding procedures, focuses on various methods for funding allocations and associated problems, along with methods to demonstrate the effects of funding. A data based analysis including a multiple linear regression analysis of the FWF-funded projects tries to identify critical factors that influence the results of the ex post evaluation. Where applicable, the study considers gender aspects in order to review the fairness FWF’s procedures.

The study addresses the following research questions:

• What is the concrete value of ex post project evaluations?

• Do ex post evaluations constitute a solid source of information for FWF and/or other stakeholders in the policy process?

• What can be learnt from ex post evaluations with respect to the success of a project?

• Do ex post evaluations pose the right questions?

• Do the results of the ex post evaluation provide any hints for the potential of commercialisation of the projects?

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