Sunday, August 14, 2022

Do Funding Agencies Select and Enable Risky Research? In the European Research Council, applicants with a history of risky research are less likely to be selected for funding than those without such a history

Do Funding Agencies Select and Enable Risky Research: Evidence from ERC Using Novelty as a Proxy of Risk Taking. Reinhilde Veugelers, Jian Wang & Paula Stephan. NBER Working Paper, 30320. Aug 2022. DOI 10.3386/w30320

Abstract: Concern exists that public funding of science is increasingly risk averse. Funders have addressed this concern by soliciting the submission of high-risk research to either regular or specially designed programs. Little evidence, however, has been gathered to examine the extent to which such programs and initiatives accomplish their stated goal. This paper sets out to study this using data from the European Research Council (ERC), a program within the EC, established in 2007 to support high-risk/high-gain research. We examine whether the ERC selected researchers with a track record of conducting risky research. We proxy high-risk by a measure of novelty in the publication records of applicants both before and after the application, recognizing that it is but one dimension of risk. We control and interact the risk measure with high-gain by tracking whether the applicant has one or more top 1% highly cited papers in their field. We find that applicants with a history of risky research are less likely to be selected for funding than those without such a history, especially early career applicants. This selection penalty for high-risk also holds among those applicants with a history of high-gain publications. To test whether receiving a long and generous prestigious ERC grant promotes risk taking, we employ a diff-in-diff approach. We find no evidence of a significant positive risk treatment effect for advanced grantees. Only for early career grantees do we find that recipients are more likely to engage in risky research, but only compared to applicants who are unsuccessful at the second stage. This positive treatment effect is in part due to unsuccessful applicants cutting back on risky research. We cautiously interpret this as a “lesson learned” that risk is not rewarded.

Naive Stoic Ideology, a misinterpretation of stoic philosophy: There is a negative association between stoic ideology and well-being

Misunderstood Stoicism: The negative Association Between Stoic Ideology and well-Being. Johannes Alfons Karl, Paul Verhaeghen, Shelley N. Aikman, Stian Solem, Espen R. Lassen & Ronald Fischer. Journal of Happiness Studies, Aug 12 2022.

Abstract: Ancient philosophy proposed a wide range of possible approaches to life which may enhance well-being. Stoic philosophy has influenced various therapeutic traditions. Individuals today may adopt an approach to life representing a naive Stoic Ideology, which nevertheless reflects a misinterpretation of stoic philosophy. How do these interpretations affect well-being and meaning in life? We examine the differential effects of Stoic Ideology on eudaimonic versus hedonic well-being across three cultural contexts. In this pre-registered study, across samples in New Zealand (N = 636), Norway (N = 290), and the US (N = 381) we found that a) Stoic Ideology can be measured across all three contexts and b) Converging evidence that Stoic Ideology was negatively related to both hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being. Focusing on specific relationships, we found especially pronounced effects for Taciturnity (the desire to not express emotions) and Serenity (the desire to feel less emotions). Despite being a misinterpretation of stoic philosophy, these findings highlight the important role of individuals’ orientations to emotional processing for well-being.


Across three cultures we investigated how a naïve stoic ideology, which captures a laypersons’ misunderstood Stoicism (as expressed in stoic ideology), might be associated with approaches to, and actual levels of, well-being. We initially predicted that stoic ideology would show a more negative association with hedonic compared to eudaimonic aspects of well-being. This was overall not confirmed. While we found that stoic ideology was more negatively associated with hedonic well-being in New Zealand, this was the only relationship in the predicted direction. Our findings, using the stoic ideology scale, are consistent with previous studies using similar measures of hedonic well-being (Bei et al., 2013; Murray et al., 2008). Importantly, on a facet level this effect was mostly driven by Taciturnity and Serenity for Eudaimonia and Hedonia. The exception was hedonic orientation to happiness which was only associated with Serenity. This pattern implies that the tendency and desire to suppress one’s problems, both experience and expression, is related to lower well-being, both hedonic and eudaimonic. Across the three countries the pattern of relationships was largely identical for higher order stoic ideology with the potential exception of the association between stoic ideology and hedonic orientation in Norway. The traditional stereotype of Nordic cultures also features a rather stoic outlook on life, which emphasizes emotional control, doing ‘your own thing’ without complaining or expressing strong emotional reactions (Saville-Troike & Tannen, 1985; Stivers et al., 2009; Tsai & Chentsova-Dutton, 2003), stoic ideology might therefore be less related to orientations to well-being. Due to the cross-sectional nature of our study, we cannot untangle whether stoic ideology only influences responding, or, as some studies have indicated, has conceptually causal relationships to well-being, theoretically driven by reduced help-seeking for example (Kaukiainen & Kõlves, 2020; Rughani et al., 2011).

It is important to highlight that our hypotheses were based on a measure which captures stoic ideology as a naïve belief system, which does not represent the philosophical ethical system underpinning Stoicism. Current psychological measures of naive stoic ideology do not capture the richness of the wider stoic belief system within classic philosophical discussions. We encourage researchers to make it explicitly clear when they are referring to Stoicism (the philosophical belief system) or stoic ideology (as captured in the Pathak-Wieten Stoic ideology scale) as an expression of a lay stoic ideological system. Future research should clarify the relationship between Stoicism and stoicism, to explore overlaps and divergences. Investigations into this area appear important, especially given the positive well-being effects of the aforementioned therapeutic approaches that are conceptually based in Stoicism (Beck, 1979; Ellis, 1962; Robertson, 2019), and the presumed malleability of stoic ideology (Pathak et al., 2017).

In future research, it would be essential to compare the relationship of the Pathak-Wieten scale empirically with measures incorporating a wider range of stoic attitudes and behaviors (centering around issues of controllability of the environment, and teleology of the universe). This is not to indicate that the Pathak-Wieten scale is not a useful tool to measure stoic ideology (but possibly not Stoicism). As we have shown here, the scale shows good measurement properties across the cultures included in our study, and reliably shows good fit across samples. From a psychometric perspective, it is a reliable and equivalent scale that can be used to compare correlation patterns across samples. The major question to be addressed in further research is what the instrument measures conceptually. As the lack of scalar invariance implies, the items measure potentially additional concepts across the different cultural contexts, which together with the philosophical questions, clearly requires further analyses and development.

At the same time, the measure provides important insight into potential determinants of reduced well-being. Given the consistent negative relationships that we found between stoic ideology and well-being across cultures, clinical practitioners might consider how these naive beliefs could be built upon for beneficial health outcomes. Given the findings of negative relationships between both aspects of well-being and the Taciturnity and Serenity facets in particular, individuals might be encouraged to share personal problems in appropriate ways and to acknowledge emotions, rather than suppressing or ignoring emotional experiences. Our study also supports previous notions (Benita et al., 2020; Gross, 2013) that it might be beneficial for individuals’ well-being to engage in practices that foster an accepting or non-judgmental stance to their emotions, for example mindfulness practices (Dundas et al., 2017), rather than suppressing their emotions. Obviously, we are unable to point towards causal directions, but the therapeutic literature using stoic philosophy principles as well as related philosophical concepts, such as mindfulness, clearly suggests that such behavioral changes may have positive health consequences.


Our current study was mostly limited by our samples, based on student populations. This limits the generalizability of our findings to the general population. However, it should be noted that the original instruments were largely developed in student samples, hence, our findings are compatible with previous research contexts. Further, we have no information on participants’ exposure to stoic philosophy, which might alter the observed association between stoic ideology and well-being. Finally, the current study, in line with previous research, focused on well-being, but not specifically on affective components. Given the conceptual overlap between stoic ideology and affective experience, future research should examine the potential link between stoic ideology beliefs, well-being, and the potential mediation role of affective experience.