Although the idea of meritocracy is widely present in social research, few studies analyze and discuss this concept. This research note shows the results from a first stage of a wider research project on meritocracy and distributive preferences in Chile, which is based on 9 interviews with social science scholars whose research is related to these issues. Findings show that researchers refer to merit and meritocracy not only departing from different definitions but also giving them contentious social relevance. Furthermore, effort takes precedence over talent, a more developed dimension in international research. The results are discussed taking the Chilean socio-cultural context into account, characterized by rapid neoliberal modernization as well as high economic inequality.