Back when I was a grad student (back when we could study the dinosaurs in the field, not as fossils!) I became aware of a wry observation. The funding agencies, it was said, had two stock answers to funding requests:
- If the research is unique and no-one else is doing it, then the research must not be worth doing so no funding; and
- If the research is being done by others then there is no use to doing redundant work, so no funding
This article suggests that the referees on funding proposals lean more to the former point-of-view than the latter.