Grant Reviews Through Game Theory

Today, we’re diving into an intriguing study titled A Game Theoretic Approach to Peer Review of Grant Proposals“. This research, conducted by Esra Eren Bayindir, Mehmet Yigit Gurdal, and Ismail Saglam, opens our eyes to how grants, crucial for funding various projects, are reviewed and approved. Let’s break it down.

What’s at Stake?

Grants are like the fuel for many projects, especially in sectors like education, science, and social services. They’re the monetary support given by organizations (like the government) to help bring various beneficial projects to life. But here’s the catch: not every project can get this support. A process, a review, decides which projects are worthy. That’s where this study comes in.

The Game of Reviews

Think of the grant review process like a game. In this game, some players – the reviewers – have the tough job of scoring these projects. Just like in any game, there are rules. These reviewers don’t see each other’s scores and must independently evaluate each project, assigning it a score between 0 and 100. The future of these projects depends on these scores.

The Findings

The study delves into the details of this ‘game’. It tells us that the review process isn’t just about checking boxes; it’s more complex. Reviewers have their preferences and biases, and these can influence their decisions. The study reveals that there’s often a significant variation in how different reviewers score the same project. This variation can mean that sometimes the project’s fate might be more about the reviewer’s perspective than the project’s actual merit.

Implications for Evaluation Practice

What does this mean for the evaluation process? Firstly, it shows us that the process is not infallible. Reviewers are human, after all. Many factors can sway their decisions, which might not always be fair to the project. This realization is crucial because it helps organizations understand the need for more robust and transparent evaluation processes. It’s about finding a balance between subjective opinions and objective criteria.

Implications for Obtaining Resources

For those seeking grants, this study is an eye-opener. It highlights the importance of understanding the review process. Your project’s success might not just be about how good it is, but also how the reviewers perceive it. This means that when preparing a grant proposal, it’s important to focus on the project’s strengths and consider how to present it in a way that resonates with different kinds of reviewers.

This is a big thing that we’ve talked about before. It’s not just what you can do, it’s how you present it.

The Role of Game Theory

Now, where does game theory fit in all this? Game theory helps us understand the dynamics of this review process. It’s like a tool the researchers use to analyze how reviewers make decisions. The researchers could better understand the patterns and potential biases in the review process by viewing the process as a game with specific rules and player behaviors.

A Step Towards Better Evaluations

This study is more than just an academic exercise. It’s a step towards improving how grants are reviewed and awarded. Shedding light on the review process’s complexities opens the door for discussions and changes that can make grant evaluations more fair and effective.


As we’ve seen, the process of reviewing and approving grants is a complex game, influenced by various factors and human biases. Understanding these intricacies is essential for both grant-seeking organizations and those who review these proposals. This study offers valuable insights into this process, paving the way for more effective and equitable grant allocation.