Federal funding for biomedical research has a “domino effect” in stimulating new studies even beyond the original goals of a grant and can provide unexpected benefits, according to a new study.
The researchers used a unique dataset to gain an unprecedented view of how science funding is spent and what results it produces.
The results, published today (April 22, 2022) in the journal Scientists are making progressdemonstrated that research funding from the National Institutes of Health is primarily for the recruitment of people working on grant-funded projects.
But these people, who include staff and interns as graduate students, continue to do more than just work with the scholarships they were hired for, said study co-author and postdoctoral economics researcher Enrico Berkes of Ohio . State University.
“We’re seeing a huge increase in productivity in publications directly related to a scholarship, but also in new studies that go further,” Berkes said. “There is this domino effect in which the people supported by the grant also produce other quality work. »
And biomedical researchers at the heart of this study have produced more clinical research with greater funding: studies directly related to patient care and health, said study co-author Bruce Weinberg, a professor of economy in the state of Ohio.
“Funding really produces the kind of research that would lead to improvements in patients’ clinical outcomes, ”Weinberg said.
The key to this study is the UMETRICS dataset available at the Institute for Research in Innovation and Science. Provides detailed information on payments for sponsored research projects at 72 universities.
This allowed researchers to use the payments to identify everyone who worked on NIH-funded research projects, from faculty to apprentices and staff.
Berkes, Weinberg, and colleagues used the PubMed database to find all the research publications produced by scientists in the UMETRICS database. They analyzed NIH grants between 1985 and 2020.
“We were able to link people with research projects following the money,” Weinberg said. “It allowed us to answer a question that was not possible before: how people spend money on research.”
The results showed that 68% of the grants were for employee expenses, which included professors, postdoctoral researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, research staff, and other staff.
The results showed that the increase in funding has led laboratories to become more professional by hiring more staff and professional researchers. In fact, the research staff and the rest of the staff showed a higher percentage of job growth than the teaching staff when the funding increased.
As funding increased and research teams grew, more scientific papers were produced, and the quality of research did not decrease.
“One hypothesis would be that as teams get bigger, they become more bureaucratic and it would be harder to produce quality science. But we found that labs maintained productivity, probably because they became professional,” Berkes said.
The results showed that the largest increase in work comes from studies not directly related to the scholarship. These are often articles that are not co-authored by the principal investigator, the researcher responsible for obtaining and managing the funding.
One way to understand the main effects of funding medical research is to see how much research is produced by those involved in grants.
Not surprisingly, teachers have the largest increase in new scientific papers due to additional funding. But in relative terms, interns, including graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, have a larger percentage increase in the articles they produce.
“We can see how research funding drives the careers of students who use what they learn while working on these funded projects and the collaborators they met on the scholarship, and start researching other important issues,” Weinberg said.
According to the findings, funding for biomedical research tends to increase both clinical documents directly related to patient care and other types of medical research.
These findings may provide even better insight into how federal research grants are spent, Berkes said.
“Funders tend to focus, understandably, on the impact of their money on the specific issue they funded,” Berkes said.
“But they need to be aware of how their funding goes through a wide range of people and produces benefits that they may not have expected.”
Funding for the study comes from the National Institute on Aging, the Office of Research in Behavioral and Social Sciences, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Center for the Advancement of Science Translational, the National Science Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman and Alfred P Sloan Foundations.
The other authors of the study were Reza Sattari, a former postdoctoral researcher, and Jung Bae, a doctor, both from the state of Ohio.