Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Observing and Negating Matthew Effects in Responsible Research and Innovation Transition

Project description

Moving beyond the Matthew effect in research

The idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is a social phenomenon linked to the Matthew effect. Essentially, it refers to the concept that those who already have status can gain more, whereas those without status struggle more to gain it. In other words, it is the accumulated advantage. The EU-funded ON-MERRIT project will investigate this concept in terms of responsible research and innovation (RRI). Specifically, it will examine whether open processes are enough to drive participation or whether this also requires capacity in terms of knowledge, skills, motivation and technological readiness. The results will assist in improving policies and creating indicators and incentives.


ON-MERRIT targets an equitable scientific system that rewards based on merit rather than the “Matthew Effect” of cumulative advantage. Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), including elements like Open Science and Gender Equality, promises to fundamentally transform scholarship to bring greater transparency and participation to research processes, and increase the impact of outputs. Yet just making processes open will not per se drive re-use or participation unless also accompanied by the capacity (in terms of knowledge, skills, motivation and technological readiness) to do so. Absorptive capacity and ability to capitalize on knowledge resources vary considerably amongst business, researchers and the general public. Those in possession of such capacities are at an advantage, with the effect that RRI’s agenda of inclusivity is put at risk by conditions of “cumulative advantage” (“Matthew Effect”). Recognising this key threat to RRI, ON-MERRIT’s transdisciplinary consortium deploys a cutting-edge combination of qualitative (surveys, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, case-studies) and computational (scientometrics, social network analysis, predictive analytics, text and data mining) methods that use stakeholder participation and co-design to engage researchers, industry, policy-makers and citizens in examining the extent of the Matthew Effect in key RRI elements (Public Engagement, Gender, Open Access/Open Science and Governance). Selected research questions focus on disciplinary contexts of particular importance for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Agriculture, Climate, and Health). ON-MERRIT then synthesises this evidence to make evidence-based policy recommendations on how Research Performing and Funding Organisations and others should amend policies, indicators and incentives to address and/or mitigate these effects, thus breaking new ground to broaden the SWAFS knowledge-base and show the way ahead for equitable RRI.


Call for proposal


See other projects for this call

Sub call



Net EU contribution
€ 292 459,06
Sandgasse 36/4
8010 Graz

See on map

Südösterreich Steiermark Graz
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 40,94

Participants (4)