Different views on scholarly talent – what are the talents we are looking for in science?

P. van Arensbergen, I van der Weijden, P.A.A. van den Besselaar

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this article, we study the evaluation of talented early career researchers, as done in grant allocation processes. To better understand funding decisions, we studied the grant allocation process in more detail, and compared the notion of talent in grant allocation with more general notions of talent existing in the academic work environment. The comparison is based on interviews with 29 scholars who have experience with identifying talent both in their daily academic work and in the process of grant allocation. Overall, there is large agreement on the notion of talent. However, the characteristics ascribed to top talent vary depending on the evaluation context. In grant allocation, a narrower talent definition prevails compared with more general evaluation. Furthermore, difficulties arise in the process of panel decision-making, when selection criteria need to be concrete and explicit to enable comparison. Having to choose between many applicants of similar quality makes the selection process liable to subjectivity, arbitrariness, and randomness. Despite these uncertainties, grants are ascribed a very high symbolic value. Small quality differences are enlarged into considerable differences in recognition, consequently affecting career opportunities, as they provide academics with both financial and symbolic resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalResearch Evaluation
Issue number4
Early online date20 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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