Federal funding for biomedical research creates positive ripple effects, study finds

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Experts say these grants can help inspire more work that provides wide-reaching benefits

A new study conducted by Ohio State University looked at the positive effects that come from federal funding for biomedical research. According to their findings, getting more funding can produce even more future research, make labs more professional, and kickstart careers for newer researchers. 

“We see a great increase in productivity in publications directly linked to a grant but also in new studies that go beyond it,” said researcher Enrico Berkes. “There is this ripple effect where people supported by the grant also produce other quality work.” 

“Funding is actually producing the kind of research that would lead to improvements in clinical outcomes for patients,” said researcher Bruce Weinberg.

Making strides in medical research

The researchers analyzed data from the UMETRICS dataset from the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science. They were able to look at how funding is dispersed on sponsored research projects from 72 universities. This study focused on federal funding given to research projects from 1985 through 2020. 

The study showed that research labs were able to do even more work with more funding. The more work they produced, the more professional their labs became and the more jobs they were able to open up and give to budding researchers. 

“One hypothesis would be that as teams grow larger, they would become more bureaucratic, and it would become more difficult to produce quality science,” said Berkes. “But we found that labs kept productivity up, likely because they became more professionalized.” 

The team explained that this increase in research often doesn’t have anything to do with the subject matter of the original project that was being funded. Instead, co-authors on that project or graduate students involved in the research can start work on new projects that may help kickstart their careers.

“We can see how research funding is jump-starting the careers of trainees who take what they learn while working on these funded projects, and the collaborators they met on the grant, and start investigating other important issues,” said Weinberg. 

This is important to know because many of these projects are focused on medical research and ways to improve consumers’ health outcomes. The team hopes this report can help shed light on the wide-reaching benefits associated with federal funding for medical research. 

“Funders tend to focus, understandably, on the impact of their money on the specific issue they funded,” Berkes said. “But they should be aware of how their funding moves through a wide range of people and produces benefits they may not have expected.” 

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