Table 3.
Empirical studies on the relation between funding size and scientific performance
ReferenceStudy typeStudy population/sampleCountryTime periodFocusResults
Arora et al. (1998)  Observation 797 research units applying to a research program in biotechnology and bioinstrumentation funded by the National Research Council in Italy Italy 1989–1993 Link between size of units/size of research funds and research output Adjusting for multiple potential confounders, the study finds that unit size does not affect research output. The study, however, finds that “a more unequal distribution of research funds would increase research output in the short-run”
Asonuma & Urata (2015)  Observation Competitive and Basic research funds for Japanese researchers in 1992 and 2007 Japan NS Link between amount of funding and research output Finds diminishing returns in terms of research output per researcher with increasing amounts of funding
Berg (2010a, b)  Observation 2,938 investigators/labs receiving grants from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in 2006 USA 2007–2010 Link between grant size and research output/average journal impact factor Finds that research output and the average journal impact factor per lab decrease with funding above ∼$750,000. Research output and the average journal impact factor per lab increased modestly with funding above ∼$250,000–300,000).
Bloch et al. (2016)  Observation 57 Centers of excellence (CoE) funded by the Danish National Research Foundation Denmark 1993–2011 Link between grant size and research output and citation impact Finds that larger CoEs have higher average citation impact and more top-cited papers. However panel data indicate that the citation performance on both metrics decrease over the course of the granting period for the largest CoE, while increasing for the smallest 50%. The  authors estimate that the  optimal annual grant size  is €1.45 million. Similarly,  they estimate that the average  citation impact of CoEs peaks  at 6.7 grant years
Breschi & Malerba (2011)  Observation 734 European Commission FP6 projects funded by the Information Society and Media Directorate Europe NS Link between project size, grant size, and research output In negative binomial regression models, a slight positive association is found between the proportion of university-based project partners and research output and between average grant size per partner and scientific output. Further, the study shows diminishing returns of the number of  project participants on  research output with an  estimated inflection point at  52 participants. The log of  total funding per project also  indicates diminishing returns  of increasing grant sizes
Danthi et al. (2015)  Observation 623 de novo R01 grants funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 2009 distributed on 458 payline grants and 165 ARRA grants USA 2009–2014 Link between grant size and field-normalized citation impact (comparing the citation impact of payline grants (median funding: ($1.87 million) vs. ARRA grants (median funding:$1.03 million) Adjusting for potential confounders, the study finds that ARRA and payline grants have similar normalized citation impact per $1 million spent Doyle et al. (2015) Observation 1,755 de novo investigator-initiated R01 grants funded for at least 2 years by the National Institute of Mental Health between 2000 and 2009 USA 2000–2009 Link between grant size and citation impact Finds an association between total award-dollars per grant and normalized citation impact, but with diminishing marginal returns. Using forest regressions, the study finds decreasing grant size to be one of the three most important predictors of returns to investment on citation impact per$ million spent
Fedderke & Goldschmidt (2015)  Observation 76 research chairs awarded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. 67 A-rated researchers without NRF chairs. 157 B-rated researchers without NRF chairs South Africa 2009–2012 Link between grant success and research output Finds that funding success is associated with moderate gains in publication and citation rates compared to researchers at equivalent standing without chairs. A comparison of high-performing researchers with and without chairs (based on propensity-score matching)  indicates that the costs of  each additional publication  for funding recipients is  22 times as high as for  equivalent researchers  without funding. Further, the  additional cost per citation is  32 times as high.
Fortin & Currie (2013)  Observation 374 individual researchers in three biology, chemistry and ecology disciplines funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in 2002 Canada 2002–2007 Link between grant size and research output and citation impact Funding size “accounts for between R-square = 0.03 to R-square = 0.28 of the among-researcher variation in impact” (i.e., citation impact). Average scientific impact generally decreased with funding size. Receiving additional funds other federal granting councils did not result in higher scientific impact
Gallo et al. (2014)  Observation 227 projects funded by the American Institute of Biological Sciences USA 2004–2011 Link between grant size and total-relative citation impact (TRC) The study created nine levels of funding in $400,000 increments, comparing the average TRC per winning application for each level. The study found no statistically significant difference in TRC across the funding levels. The total annual TRC correlated moderately with the number of funded applications, but not with the total annual programmatic budget. Gaughan & Bozeman (2002) Observation 436 PhD level scientists and engineers in biotechnology and microelectronics-related with funding grants. Of these 177 are recipients of NSF center grants USA NS How center funding influences individual researchers’ research output Adjusting for potential confounders, the study finds no association between center funding and research output. However, having another type of government or foundation grant is associated with increasing research output, but the effect is small. In general, grant volume slightly (i.e., number of grants) improves performance. Gök et al. (2016) Observation All researchers from BE, DK, NL, NO, CH, and SE with publications in WoS in the period 2009–2011 (242,406 articles) Europe 2009–2011 Link between funding intensity/funding variety and citation impact per paper In per-country logistic regressions adjusting for country of coauthors, broad subject categories, number of authors, and publication year the study finds a negative association between funding intensity (i.e., the number of funding sources acknowledged in a paper/number of authors) and per- paper citation rates. A positive association is shown between funding variety (i.e., “number of funders/the number of unique funders per each paper”) and citation impact Ida & Fukuzawa (2013) Observation 374 Japanese research teams, of which some were funded as Centers of Excellence Japan 1997–2008 Comparing the impact of CoE funding on research output and citation impact Comparing the citation and publication rates of CoE participants before and after funding (difference in difference) with the performance a control group, the study finds a positive association between CoE funding and research output in four out of eight scientific fields. Further, it shows a positive association between CoE funding and citation impact in three out of eight fields. In the remaining fields no statistically significant association between CoE funding and research output and impact is demonstrated, with one exception: the study shows a negative association between CoE funding and citation impact in mathematics and physics Jung et al. (2017) Observation Researchers receiving grants from South Korea’s National Research Foundation between 2003 and 2009. Analysis was based on 3228 published paper South Korea NS Link between amount of funding and journal impact factor and journal ranking In regressions adjusting for multiple confounders, the study finds that funding size correlates slightly negatively with journal impact factor per paper and journal ranking per paper Katz & Matter (2017) Observation Recipients of NIH R grants in the period 2005–2010. N is not specified for the given period of analysis, but the data are taken from a larger sample of nearly 90,000 NIH-funded projects between 1985 and 2015 USA 2005–2010 Link between distribution of funding and scientific output Finds that the most highly funded R-grant recipients have a considerably larger number of publications than less funded recipients, accumulate a larger number of citations, and have more publications in the most prestigious journals. The study does not look into possible inflection points for diminishing marginal returns Langfeldt et al. (2015) Observation 12 Scandinavian Centers of Excellence. Performance is measured 5 years prior to and after the establishment of the CoEs Scandinavia NA Link between CoE grants and research output, normalized journal impact, and normalized citation impact Based on descriptive analysis, it is concluded that “CoE grants seem to have limited impact for some already high-performing and distinguished groups (…) [T]he status and opportunities offered by the CoE grant add less to the situation of some of the highest performing groups, than for less recognized groups” Lauer et al. (2015) Observation 6873 de novo cardiovascular R01 grants funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute between 1980 and 2011 USA 1980–2011 Link between grant size and citation impact (in terms of top 10% most cited papers) Finds an association between annual total budget per project and citation impact in terms of field-normalized top 10% most cited papers, but with varying marginal returns depending on funding size. Finds an association between total grant budget and top 10% most cited paper rates but with diminishing returns on investment Lauer et al. (2017) Observation 71,936 researchers funded by the NIH between 1996 and 2014 USA 1996–2014 Link between grant size and citation impact (measured by three metrics) Finds diminishing returns in terms of citation impact with increasing grant sizes Mongeon et al. (2016) Observation 12,720 unique funding recipients in Quebec between 1998 and 2012 Canada 2000–2013 Link between grant size and research output and citation impact Finds that increasing research funding yields decreasing marginal returns with respect to research output and citation impact (including top 10% most cited) in health research, science and engineering research, and social science research. The study concludes that researchers receiving a moderate amount of funding provide the best returns in terms of research output and citation impact per dollar Nag et al. (2013) Cross-sectional survey 720 bioscientists performing agriculturally related molecular or cellular level research (total sample 1,441) USA 2003–2006 Link between financial support/lab size and research output Adjusting for multiple potential confounders, the study finds that that the mean bioscience laboratory “is too large to make efficient use of its resources.” A 10% boost in laboratory budget results in a 7.5% increase in article output Shibayama (2011) Observation Projects supported by the Japanese Grants-in-Aid since 1965, (i.e., approx. 600,000 grants and 210,000 funded university researchers) Japan 2001–2005 Efficiency of funding distribution in terms of research output Finds inequality in research funding (calculated by the Gini-coefficient) to be larger than the inequality in research output (calculated by the Gini-coefficient) at the institutional level (0.845 vs 0.919) and at the level of the individual researcher (0.592 vs. 0.685). Spanos & Vonortas (2012) Cross-sectional survey Randomly selected sample of 54,492 participating organizations funded through the European Framework Programme 5 and 6. Final sample employed in the analysis: 583/586 organizations Europe 2006 Link between funding size/N project partners and research output/technological output (patents) Adjusting for multiple project-level controls, the study does not find a statistically significant relationship between funding size and research output or technological output and number of project partners and research output or technologic output Yan et al. (2018) Observation Five core journals from seven STEMM disciplines International 2010–2016 Link between funding size and citation impact Funding size is found to increase citation impact considerably. Number of funding sources is a weak predictor of citation impact ReferenceStudy typeStudy population/sampleCountryTime periodFocusResults Arora et al. (1998) Observation 797 research units applying to a research program in biotechnology and bioinstrumentation funded by the National Research Council in Italy Italy 1989–1993 Link between size of units/size of research funds and research output Adjusting for multiple potential confounders, the study finds that unit size does not affect research output. The study, however, finds that “a more unequal distribution of research funds would increase research output in the short-run” Asonuma & Urata (2015) Observation Competitive and Basic research funds for Japanese researchers in 1992 and 2007 Japan NS Link between amount of funding and research output Finds diminishing returns in terms of research output per researcher with increasing amounts of funding Berg (2010a, b) Observation 2,938 investigators/labs receiving grants from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in 2006 USA 2007–2010 Link between grant size and research output/average journal impact factor Finds that research output and the average journal impact factor per lab decrease with funding above ∼$750,000. Research output and the average journal impact factor per lab increased modestly with funding above ∼$250,000–300,000). Bloch et al. (2016) Observation 57 Centers of excellence (CoE) funded by the Danish National Research Foundation Denmark 1993–2011 Link between grant size and research output and citation impact Finds that larger CoEs have higher average citation impact and more top-cited papers. However panel data indicate that the citation performance on both metrics decrease over the course of the granting period for the largest CoE, while increasing for the smallest 50%. The authors estimate that the optimal annual grant size is €1.45 million. Similarly, they estimate that the average citation impact of CoEs peaks at 6.7 grant years Breschi & Malerba (2011) Observation 734 European Commission FP6 projects funded by the Information Society and Media Directorate Europe NS Link between project size, grant size, and research output In negative binomial regression models, a slight positive association is found between the proportion of university-based project partners and research output and between average grant size per partner and scientific output. Further, the study shows diminishing returns of the number of project participants on research output with an estimated inflection point at 52 participants. The log of total funding per project also indicates diminishing returns of increasing grant sizes Danthi et al. (2015) Observation 623 de novo R01 grants funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 2009 distributed on 458 payline grants and 165 ARRA grants USA 2009–2014 Link between grant size and field-normalized citation impact (comparing the citation impact of payline grants (median funding: ($1.87 million) vs. ARRA grants (median funding:  $1.03 million) Adjusting for potential confounders, the study finds that ARRA and payline grants have similar normalized citation impact per$1 million spent
Doyle et al. (2015)  Observation 1,755 de novo investigator-initiated R01 grants funded for at least 2 years by the National Institute of Mental Health between 2000 and 2009 USA 2000–2009 Link between grant size and citation impact Finds an association between total award-dollars per grant and normalized citation impact, but with diminishing marginal returns. Using forest regressions, the study finds decreasing grant size to be one of the three most important predictors of returns to  investment on citation  impact per $million spent Fedderke & Goldschmidt (2015) Observation 76 research chairs awarded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. 67 A-rated researchers without NRF chairs. 157 B-rated researchers without NRF chairs South Africa 2009–2012 Link between grant success and research output Finds that funding success is associated with moderate gains in publication and citation rates compared to researchers at equivalent standing without chairs. A comparison of high-performing researchers with and without chairs (based on propensity-score matching) indicates that the costs of each additional publication for funding recipients is 22 times as high as for equivalent researchers without funding. Further, the additional cost per citation is 32 times as high. Fortin & Currie (2013) Observation 374 individual researchers in three biology, chemistry and ecology disciplines funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in 2002 Canada 2002–2007 Link between grant size and research output and citation impact Funding size “accounts for between R-square = 0.03 to R-square = 0.28 of the among-researcher variation in impact” (i.e., citation impact). Average scientific impact generally decreased with funding size. Receiving additional funds other federal granting councils did not result in higher scientific impact Gallo et al. (2014) Observation 227 projects funded by the American Institute of Biological Sciences USA 2004–2011 Link between grant size and total-relative citation impact (TRC) The study created nine levels of funding in$400,000 increments, comparing the average TRC per winning application for each level. The study found no statistically significant difference in TRC across the funding levels. The total annual TRC correlated moderately with the number of funded applications, but not with  the total annual programmatic  budget.
Gaughan & Bozeman (2002)  Observation 436 PhD level scientists and engineers in biotechnology and microelectronics-related with funding grants. Of these 177 are recipients of NSF center grants USA NS How center funding influences individual researchers’ research output Adjusting for potential confounders, the study finds no association between center funding and research output. However, having another type of government or foundation grant is associated with increasing research output, but the effect is small. In general, grant volume slightly (i.e., number of grants) improves performance.
Gök et al. (2016)  Observation All researchers from BE, DK, NL, NO, CH, and SE with publications in WoS in the period 2009–2011 (242,406 articles) Europe 2009–2011 Link between funding intensity/funding variety and citation impact per paper In per-country logistic regressions adjusting for country of coauthors, broad subject categories, number of authors, and publication year the study finds a negative association between funding intensity (i.e., the number of funding sources acknowledged in a paper/number of authors) and per- paper citation rates. A positive  association is shown between  funding variety (i.e., “number  of funders/the number of unique  funders per each paper”) and  citation impact
Ida & Fukuzawa (2013)  Observation 374 Japanese research teams, of which some were funded as Centers of Excellence Japan 1997–2008 Comparing the impact of CoE funding on research output and citation impact Comparing the citation and publication rates of CoE participants before and after funding (difference in difference) with the performance a control group, the study finds a positive association between CoE funding and research output in four out of eight scientific fields.  Further, it shows a positive  association between CoE  funding and citation impact in  three out of eight fields. In the  remaining fields no statistically  significant association between  CoE funding and research  output and impact is demonstrated,  with one exception: the study  shows a negative association  between CoE funding and citation  impact in mathematics and physics
Jung et al. (2017)  Observation Researchers receiving grants from South Korea’s National Research Foundation between 2003 and 2009. Analysis was based on 3228 published paper South Korea NS Link between amount of funding and journal impact factor and journal ranking In regressions adjusting for multiple confounders, the study finds that funding size correlates slightly negatively with journal impact factor per paper and journal ranking per paper
Katz & Matter (2017)  Observation Recipients of NIH R grants in the period 2005–2010. N is not specified for the given period of analysis, but the data are taken from a larger sample of nearly 90,000 NIH-funded projects between 1985 and 2015 USA 2005–2010 Link between distribution of funding and scientific output Finds that the most highly funded R-grant recipients have a considerably larger number of publications than less funded recipients, accumulate a larger number of citations, and have more publications in the most prestigious journals. The study does not look into possible inflection points for  diminishing marginal returns
Langfeldt et al. (2015)  Observation 12 Scandinavian Centers of Excellence. Performance is measured 5 years prior to and after the establishment of the CoEs Scandinavia NA Link between CoE grants and research output, normalized journal impact, and normalized citation impact Based on descriptive analysis, it is concluded that “CoE grants seem to have limited impact for some already high-performing and distinguished groups (…) [T]he status and opportunities offered by the CoE grant add less to the situation of some of the highest performing groups,  than for less recognized  groups”
Lauer et al. (2015)  Observation 6873 de novo cardiovascular R01 grants funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute between 1980 and 2011 USA 1980–2011 Link between grant size and citation impact (in terms of top 10% most cited papers) Finds an association between annual total budget per project and citation impact in terms of field-normalized top 10% most cited papers, but with varying marginal returns depending on funding size. Finds an association between total grant budget and top 10% most cited  paper rates but with  diminishing returns on  investment
Lauer et al. (2017)  Observation 71,936 researchers funded by the NIH between 1996 and 2014 USA 1996–2014 Link between grant size and citation impact (measured by three metrics) Finds diminishing returns in terms of citation impact with increasing grant sizes
Mongeon et al. (2016)  Observation 12,720 unique funding recipients in Quebec between 1998 and 2012 Canada 2000–2013 Link between grant size and research output and citation impact Finds that increasing research funding yields decreasing marginal returns with respect to research output and citation impact (including top 10% most cited) in health research, science and engineering research, and social science research. The study concludes that  researchers receiving a  moderate amount of funding  provide the best returns  in terms of research output  and citation impact per dollar
Nag et al. (2013)  Cross-sectional survey 720 bioscientists performing agriculturally related molecular or cellular level research (total sample 1,441) USA 2003–2006 Link between financial support/lab size and research output Adjusting for multiple potential confounders, the study finds that that the mean bioscience laboratory “is too large to make efficient use of its resources.” A 10% boost in laboratory budget results in a 7.5% increase in article output
Shibayama (2011)  Observation Projects supported by the Japanese Grants-in-Aid since 1965, (i.e., approx. 600,000 grants and 210,000 funded university researchers) Japan 2001–2005 Efficiency of funding distribution in terms of research output Finds inequality in research funding (calculated by the Gini-coefficient) to be larger than the inequality in research output (calculated by the Gini-coefficient) at the institutional level (0.845 vs 0.919) and at the level of the individual researcher (0.592 vs. 0.685).
Spanos & Vonortas (2012)  Cross-sectional survey Randomly selected sample of 54,492 participating organizations funded through the European Framework Programme 5 and 6. Final sample employed in the analysis: 583/586 organizations Europe 2006 Link between funding size/N project partners and research output/technological output (patents) Adjusting for multiple project-level controls, the study does not find a statistically significant relationship between funding size and research output or technological output and number of project partners and research output or technologic output
Yan et al. (2018)  Observation Five core journals from seven STEMM disciplines International 2010–2016 Link between funding size and citation impact Funding size is found to increase citation impact considerably. Number of funding sources is a weak predictor of citation impact
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