It seems a long time since John Ziman’s label ‘steady state science’ neatly captured the fact that a tipping point had been reached, where demand for research resources would evermore outstrip their supply. From this point decisions about how to allocate research resources among competing claims would become one of the central tasks of research management and policy.
Scientific quality would no longer be sufficient, in itself, to justify financial support. Scientific projects would have to be ranked on merit. The best or the most important science would be funded, the rest would not. Grant application success rates fell. Competitive markets became the analogy for research funding, coupled with new authority structures to closely oversee how these scarce public resources were spent. The advent of the financial crisis from 2008 led to slowdowns in the growth of science funding in many countries and real reductions in others, placing further pressure on allocation mechanisms.