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Researchers often complain about research grant schemes, but usually within a narrow frame of reference. Looking more broadly, problems with grant schemes can be classified as bias, waste, discouragement and orientation to interests. There are various ways to allocate research funds, including administrative decision, peer review, performance-based allocation, equality and community-based bids. Each has different sorts of problems and serves different interests. By looking at diverse systems for allocating research funds, some of the assumptions underlying usual discussions become more apparent. Recent changes in Australian government policy on higher education research are examined using the framework provided here.