Big Science vs. Little Science: How Scientific Impact Scales with Funding

Published on Jun 19, 2013in PLOS ONE2.78
· DOI :10.1371/journal.pone.0065263
Jean-Michel Fortin2
Estimated H-index: 2
(U of O: University of Ottawa),
David J. Currie41
Estimated H-index: 41
(U of O: University of Ottawa)
Agencies that fund scientific research must choose: is it more effective to give large grants to a few elite researchers, or small grants to many researchers? Large grants would be more effective only if scientific impact increases as an accelerating function of grant size. Here, we examine the scientific impact of individual university-based researchers in three disciplines funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). We considered four indices of scientific impact: numbers of articles published, numbers of citations to those articles, the most cited article, and the number of highly cited articles, each measured over a four-year period. We related these to the amount of NSERC funding received. Impact is positively, but only weakly, related to funding. Researchers who received additional funds from a second federal granting council, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, were not more productive than those who received only NSERC funding. Impact was generally a decelerating function of funding. Impact per dollar was therefore lower for large grant-holders. This is inconsistent with the hypothesis that larger grants lead to larger discoveries. Further, the impact of researchers who received increases in funding did not predictably increase. We conclude that scientific impact (as reflected by publications) is only weakly limited by funding. We suggest that funding strategies that target diversity, rather than “excellence”, are likely to prove to be more productive.
  • References (15)
  • Citations (76)
Published on Sep 28, 2012in Science41.04
Bruce M. Albertsll70
Estimated H-index: 70
I am prompted to write this editorial by the release of 30 papers this month from the encode Project Consortium. This decade-long project involved an international team of 442 scientists who have compiled what is being called an “encyclopedia of DNA elements,” a comprehensive list of functional elements in the human genome. The detailed overview is expected to spur further research on the fundamentals of life, health, and disease. ENCODE exemplifies a “big-science” style of research that continu...
Published on Sep 1, 2012in Nature43.07
Jeremy M Berg49
Estimated H-index: 49
An added layer of review for elite grant-holders upholds the mission of the National Institutes of Health, says Jeremy M. Berg.
Published on Jul 1, 2012in Physics Today3.09
Toni Fkdeh9
Estimated H-index: 9
Published on May 1, 2012in Physics Today3.09
Toni Fkdeh9
Estimated H-index: 9
Sifting through large amounts of data, monitoring data streams, and communicating results are promising areas for sonification.
Published on Apr 1, 2012in Nature43.07
Pierre Azoulay17
Estimated H-index: 17
How can we know whether funding models for research work? By relentlessly testing them using randomized controlled trials, says Pierre Azoulay.
Published on May 1, 2010in The FASEB Journal5.39
Athina Tatsioni24
Estimated H-index: 24
Effie Vavva1
Estimated H-index: 1
John P. A. Ioannidis147
Estimated H-index: 147
Funding is important for scientists’ work and may contribute to exceptional research outcomes. We analyzed the funding sources reported in the landmark scientific papers of Nobel Prize winners. Between 2000 and 2008, 70 Nobel laureates won recognition in medicine, physics, and chemistry. Sixty five (70%) of the 93 selected papers related to the Nobel-awarded work reported some funding source including U.S. government sources in 53 (82%), non-U.S. government sources in 19 (29%), and nongovernment...
Published on Mar 1, 2010in American Journal of Evaluation1.49
David Campbell12
Estimated H-index: 12
Michelle Picard-Aitken1
Estimated H-index: 1
+ 12 AuthorsÉric Archambault14
Estimated H-index: 14
As bibliometric indicators are objective, reliable, and cost-effective measures of peer-reviewed research outputs, they are expected to play an increasingly important role in research assessment/management. Recently, a bibliometric approach was developed and integrated within the evaluation framework of research funded by the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC). This approach helped address the following questions that were difficult to answer objectively using alternative methods such as...
Published on Sep 11, 2009in PLOS ONE2.78
E.R. Dorsey47
Estimated H-index: 47
(URMC: University of Rochester Medical Center),
Joel P. Thompson9
Estimated H-index: 9
(SUNY: State University of New York System)
+ 6 AuthorsHamilton Moses17
Estimated H-index: 17
(JHUSOM: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
Background We estimated U.S. biomedical research funding across therapeutic areas, determined the association with disease burden, and evaluated new drug approvals that resulted from this investment. Methodology/Principal Findings We calculated funding from 1995 to 2005 and totaled Food and Drug Administration approvals in eight therapeutic areas (cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, HIV/AIDS, infectious disease excluding HIV, oncology, and respiratory) primarily using pub...
Published on Jul 20, 2009in Accountability in Research
S. Roorda28
Estimated H-index: 28
(UdeM: Université de Montréal)
A recent publication in this journal (Gordon and Poulin, 2009) argues that the cost of the NSERC peer review exceeds the cost of giving every researcher a $30,000 baseline grant. However, the authors overestimated the ratio of peer review expenses to baseline grant cost by a factor of 26. The real cost of peer review is less than 5% of the baseline grant amount.
Cited By76
Published on 2019in Ecoscience0.63
Stephanie J. Melles , Christopher Scarpone (RyeU: Ryerson University)+ 7 AuthorsFrances Okoye (RyeU: Ryerson University)
ABSTRACTBetween 1987 and 1995, research papers published in five leading journals of applied ecology and conservation biology (AECB) were overwhelmingly produced by American and British authors. A ...
Published on Aug 29, 2019
Kaare Aagaard6
Estimated H-index: 6
(AU: Aarhus University),
Alexander Kladakis (AU: Aarhus University), Mathias Wullum Nielsen8
Estimated H-index: 8
(AU: Aarhus University)
The relationship between the distribution of research funding and scientific performance is a major discussion point in many science-policy contexts. Do high shares of funding handed out to a limit...
Published on Jun 25, 2019in Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research3.21
Adolfo Alonso-Arroyo13
Estimated H-index: 13
(University of Valencia),
Beatriz Tarazona‐Alvarez (University of Valencia)+ 2 AuthorsAntonio Vidal-Infer8
Estimated H-index: 8
(University of Valencia)
Published on Jun 17, 2019in Nature Human Behaviour
Henrik Dimke17
Estimated H-index: 17
(University of Southern Denmark),
Maria Theresa Norn (AU: Aarhus University)+ 2 AuthorsN. T. Zinner18
Estimated H-index: 18
(AU: Aarhus University)
Scientists’ own perspectives on research funding are often missing. To address this, we surveyed Danish scientists about their ideal research grant. In contrast to a trend towards larger grants, most surveyed scientists prefer small or mid-sized grants to pursue their ideas and advance their scientific careers.
Published on Jun 18, 2019in Journal of Evolutionary Biology2.54
Stephanie Meirmans6
Estimated H-index: 6
(UvA: University of Amsterdam),
Roger K. Butlin61
Estimated H-index: 61
(University of Sheffield)
+ 6 AuthorsMaurine Neiman20
Estimated H-index: 20
(UI: University of Iowa)
Wayne P. Wahls18
Estimated H-index: 18
(University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)
The NIH is the federal steward of biomedical research in the United States. Taxpayers fund the NIH; the NIH supports research into the underlying biology, etiology, and treatment of diseases; and benefits of that research are returned to taxpayers. This is a large and complex enterprise, but at its core are two fundamental principles. The NIH is obligated to distribute its research grants and grant dollars in a fair and impartial manner among qualified investigators nationwide and to maximize th...
Published on May 1, 2019in Scientometrics2.77
Belén Álvarez-Bornstein1
Estimated H-index: 1
(CSIC: Spanish National Research Council),
Adrián A. Díaz-Faes4
Estimated H-index: 4
(Polytechnic University of Valencia),
María Bordons22
Estimated H-index: 22
(CSIC: Spanish National Research Council)
Improving our knowledge about funding patterns in different research domains and how funding contributes to research is a matter of great interest for funders and policymakers. This paper aims to (a) compare the funding patterns of two biomedical domains that differ in their basic versus clinical nature, and (b) to elucidate the factors that influence the presence of funding. To do so, we draw on the scientific output of Spain-based researchers in the Virology (basic) and Cardiac and Cardiovascu...
Published on Mar 1, 2019in Revista Espanola De Cardiologia5.13
Luis Rodríguez Padial14
Estimated H-index: 14
Ignacio Fernández Lozano11
Estimated H-index: 11
+ 4 AuthorsAndrés Íñiguez Romo7
Estimated H-index: 7
Abstract Introduction and objectives The Spanish Society of Cardiology/Spanish Heart Foundation (SEC/FEC) annually awards grants for cardiovascular research projects. Our objective was to analyze the trend in these investments and their resulting scientific production from 2007 to 2012. Methods A search of the publications funded by the SEC/FEC was carried out, according to the following inclusion criteria: publication in a journal indexed in MEDLINE or EMBASE, publication date after the grant, ...