I want to know

Question: Do all research grants (funds) for (under)graduate students lead to high quality (Q1 or Q2) research papers?

How do institutions trust (under)graduate students so that they do not misuse this grants? How they choose from many talented students?

I am asking this because one of my friends has very limited budget for giving to talented (under)graduate students and they don't know how to deal with these issues.

I would appreciate your assistance.

  • Considering the widespread misuse of funding by the scientific community I think your question is based on a faulty premise. Jun 10, 2021 at 15:09
  • It has been shown that only 1% of invested research money come up with important, game-changing results, the rest is wasted. The problem is to identify which 1%. Jun 10, 2021 at 15:25
  • 1
    Not all research grants for postgraduate students produce such research papers. For that matter, not all research grants for postdocs, or tenure-track academics, or full professors produce such output (though the rate is much higher, because that career progression selects for the ability to produce such output).
    – Sam
    Jun 10, 2021 at 15:34
  • @CaptainEmacs - although training new PhDs has value as well.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 10, 2021 at 16:10
  • @JonCuster Of course, but I couldn't resist, since the question was outcome-oriented (and anyway education seems no longer to be as valued as it used to be, despite all indications that higher education levels in a population increases all kinds of metrics of a country in the long run.). Jun 10, 2021 at 17:36

3 Answers 3


I think the purpose of (funded) research by undergraduates is to give the participants a taste of what real research mathematicians do: think in good company about interesting questions that no one yet knows how to answer.

If a high quality paper (or any paper at all) comes out of this work, that's a big plus. But it's not how to measure the success of the endeavor.


In my experience, most projects led by undergraduate students do not result in high-quality research papers, or even a paper at all. Undergraduate students can often work well under the frequent supervision of a graduate student, and I have seen many undergraduate students earn a second-author spot on a good paper.

Some graduate students will be able to write high-quality papers, but others will not. It depends on their skill as a researcher, and since they are a graduate student, they are usually still developing those skills.

Overall, I don't see many students misusing these grants. Most commonly, I see students who are unsure of what to do, or who underestimate the quality of work needed to achieve a journal publication. This can happen even to talented students who lack research experience.

Having a limited budget for funding is a common experience to most supervisors. It's hard to define a metric to find the "best" student, and the "best" probably varies for each advisor anyways. Qualities like relevant technical skills, motivation, and perseverance are probably useful to look for.

  • I don't know whether this is a good paper or not but here are the works of an undergrad that seem are very up-to-date works. and seemingly has resolved a conjecture!!
    – C.F.G
    Jun 10, 2021 at 16:18

No, it isn't reasonable to expect undergraduates to do high quality research on their own. They are too inexperienced and need to learn a lot about process as well as the topic of the research as they do.

I think that funders recognize this and treat the funding as a kind of training, not a way to get the highest quality results.

But, to manage the students and assure that there is no misuse, someone, a professor probably, needs to keep involved with the students to assure that they keep on track.

Another problem with undergraduate research is that it is difficult to take on any open-ended questions since the time for the project is most likely very limited. This can be true even at the MS level. Doctoral research is intentionally open ended so that important questions can be asked and some definitive result obtained, though with less control over length of the project.

I'll note that in some situations in which a student gets some funds to join an existing research project in which papers have multiple authors, it might be possible for the student to make faster progress and (jointly) produce a higher quality product since there is probably more mentoring in such a situation.

But, don't expect much if you just give undergraduates money and don't keep involved in their work.

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