Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Research funding


We surveyed 113 astronomers and 82 psychologists active in applying for federally funded research on their grant-writing history between January, 2009 and November, 2012. We collected demographic data, effort levels, success rates, and perceived non-financial benefits from writing grant proposals. We find that the average proposal takes 116 PI hours and 55 CI hours to write; although time spent writing was not related to whether the grant was funded. Effort did translate into success, however, as academics who wrote more grants received more funding. Participants indicated modest non-monetary benefits from grant writing, with psychologists reporting a somewhat greater benefit overall than astronomers. These perceptions of non-financial benefits were unrelated to how many grants investigators applied for, the number of grants they received, or the amount of time they devoted to writing their proposals. We also explored the number of years an investigator can afford to apply unsuccessfully for research grants and our analyses suggest that funding rates below approximately 20%, commensurate with current NIH and NSF funding, are likely to drive at least half of the active researchers away from federally funded research. We conclude with recommendations and suggestions for individual investigators and for department heads.

Concepts: Writing system, Creative writing, Funding, Research funding, Writing, Finance, Fundraising, Research


As part of a cluster of articles critically reflecting on the theme of “no health without research,” Devi Sridhar discusses a major challenge in the governance of research funding: “multi-bi” financing that allows the priorities of funding bodies to dictate what health issues and diseases are studied.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Medicine, Research funding, Research, Finance, Theme music


The time-honored mechanism of allocating funds based on ranking of proposals by scientific peer review is no longer effective, because review panels cannot accurately stratify proposals to identify the most meritorious ones. Bias has a major influence on funding decisions, and the impact of reviewer bias is magnified by low funding paylines. Despite more than a decade of funding crisis, there has been no fundamental reform in the mechanism for funding research. This essay explores the idea of awarding research funds on the basis of a modified lottery in which peer review is used to identify the most meritorious proposals, from which funded applications are selected by lottery. We suggest that a modified lottery for research fund allocation would have many advantages over the current system, including reducing bias and improving grantee diversity with regard to seniority, race, and gender.

Concepts: Research funding, Review, Business terms, Finance, Peer review, Fundraising, Scientific method, Funding


Scientists are increasingly dissatisfied with funding systems that rely on peer assessment and, accordingly, have suggested several proposals for reform. One of these proposals is to distribute available funds equally among all qualified researchers, with no interference from peer review. Despite its numerous benefits, such egalitarian sharing faces the objection, among others, that it would lead to an unacceptable dilution of resources. The aim of the present paper is to assess this particular objection. We estimate (for the Netherlands, the U.S. and the U.K.) how much researchers would receive were they to get an equal share of the government budgets that are currently allocated through competitive peer assessment. For the Netherlands, we furthermore estimate what researchers would receive were we to differentiate between researchers working in low-cost, intermediate-cost and high-cost disciplines. Given these estimates, we then determine what researchers could afford in terms of PhD students, Postdocs, travel and equipment. According to our results, researchers could, on average, maintain current PhD student and Postdoc employment levels, and still have at their disposal a moderate (the U.K.) to considerable (the Netherlands, U.S.) budget for travel and equipment. This suggests that the worry that egalitarian sharing leads to unacceptable dilution of resources is unjustified. Indeed, our results strongly suggest that there is room for far more egalitarian distribution of funds than happens in the highly competitive funding schemes so prevalent today.

Concepts: Netherlands, Funding, European Union, International trade, Distribution, PhD, Research funding, Research


In the context of avoiding research waste, the conduct of a feasibility study before a clinical trial should reduce the risk that further resources will be committed to a trial that is likely to ‘fail’. However, there is little evidence indicating whether feasibility studies add to or reduce waste in research. Feasibility studies funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme were examined to determine how many had published their findings, how many had applied for further funding for a full trial and the timeframe in which both of these occurred. A total of 120 feasibility studies which had closed by May 2016 were identified and each Principal Investigator (PI) was sent a questionnaire of which 89 responses were received and deemed suitable for analysis. Based on self reported answers from the PIs a total of 57 feasibility studies were judged as feasible, 20 were judged not feasible and for 12 it was judged as uncertain whether a full trial was feasible. The RfPB programme had spent approximately £19.5m on the 89 feasibility studies of which 16 further studies had been subsequently funded to a total of £16.8m. The 20 feasibility studies which were judged as not feasible potentially saved up to approximately £20m of further research funding which would likely to have not completed successfully. The average RfPB feasibility study took 31 months (range 18 to 48) to complete and cost £219,048 (range £72,031 to £326,830) and the average full trial funded from an RfPB feasibility study took 42 months (range 26 to 55) to complete and cost £1,163,996 (range £321,403 to £2,099,813). The average timeframe of feasibility study and full trial was 72 months (range 56 to 91), however in addition to this time an average of 10 months (range -7 to 29) was taken between the end of the feasibility study and the application for the full trial, and a further average of 18 months (range 13 to 28) between the application for the full trial and the start of the full trial. Approximately 58% of the 89 feasibility studies had published their findings with the majority of the remaining studies still planning to publish. Due to the long time frames involved a number of studies were still in the process of publishing the feasibility findings and/or applying for a full trial. Feasibility studies are potentially useful at avoiding waste and de-risking funding investments of more expensive full trials, however there is a clear time delay and therefore some potential waste in the existing research pathway.

Concepts: Research funding, Cultural studies, Publishing, Cost, 2016, Funding, Finance, Research


While health research is considered essential for improving health worldwide, it remains unclear how it is best organized to contribute to health. This study examined research that was part of a Ghanaian-Dutch research program that aimed to increase the likelihood that results would be used by funding research that focused on national research priorities and was led by local researchers. The aim of this study was to map the contribution of this research to action and examine which features of research and translation processes were associated with the use of the results.

Concepts: Research funding, Empiricism, Research, Science, Research and development, Empirical research, Scientific method


Little is known about who the main public and philanthropic funders of health research are globally, what they fund and how they decide what gets funded. This study aims to identify the 10 largest public and philanthropic health research funding organizations in the world, to report on what they fund, and on how they distribute their funds.

Concepts: Research funding, Research, World, Hedge fund, Business terms, Finance, Fundraising, Funding


Congress recently approved a $3 billion NIH budget increase for fiscal year 2018, the third year of a significant increase after a period of flat or declining funding, but early-career scientists deciding whether to pursue a career in research need stable, long-term funding over many years. Some of these investigators traveled to Capitol Hill last month and met with members of Congress and their staffs to advocate for sustainable, reliable government research funding.

Concepts: Strategic misrepresentation, Research, Fiscal year, United States House of Representatives, United States Congress, United States Capitol, Research funding, Federal government of the United States


Academic literature extensively documents gender disparities in the medical profession with regard to salary, promotion, and government funded research. However, gender differences in the value of financial ties to industry have not been adequately studied despite industry’s increasing contribution to income and research funding to physicians in the U.S.

Concepts: Funding, Fundraising, Research, Medicine, Sociology, Physician, Finance, Research funding


Research funding agencies continue to grapple with assessing research impact. Theoretical frameworks are useful tools for describing and understanding research impact. The purpose of this narrative literature review was to synthesize evidence that describes processes and conceptual models for assessing policy and practice impacts of public health research.

Concepts: Narrative, Rhetorical modes, Fiction, Academic publishing, Humanities, Mental structures, Research funding, Evaluation