Panel Paper: The Snowball Effect of Federal Research Funding

Friday, November 9, 2018
Coolidge - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Scott Langford and Maryann Feldman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Over the past several decades the academic enterprise has been transformed, with research activities becoming much more prominent. Over the past half century annual higher education research expenditures derived from federal sources have increased considerably (1960 to 2010, $52 million to $36.5 billion). Although the federal government provides the greatest share of research funding (57.2% as of 2015) other sources provide considerable funding, including institutions (22.2%), industry (6.1%), state and local governments (5.4%) and other sources (9.0%) (NSF, Higher Education Research and Development Survey. Within the field of higher education finance, one of the questions that has arisen is whether federal funds behave as complements or substitutes in relation to other funding sources.

Prior scholarly efforts have shown that non-federal funding typically functions as a compliment to federal funding. Blume-Kohout, Kumar and Sood show that over the period of time in which the NIH budget doubled (1998 – 2003) complementarity between federal and non-federal sources is observed. However, the effect was partially reversed in the years following the doubling (2004 – 2010), with substitution observed in research-intensive institutions, and complementarity observed in less-research intensive institutions (Blume-Kohout, Kumar, and Sood, Science and Public Policy 2015 (42) 355 – 368). Lanahan, Graddy-Reed and Feldman show that between 2010 and 2014 non-federal resources compliment federal resources (Lanahan, Graddy-Reed and Feldman, PLOS One 2016 (11) e0157325). While these studies have consistently shown that non-federal funds behave as a compliment for federal funds, a fundamental limitation of these studies is that the data were collected at the institution level.

To further this line of inquiry, this work characterizes this relationship at the investigator level. The data set used here contains investigator level funding data on sponsored-research awards at six university campuses. This provides a richer picture by allowing for more detailed questions to be asked. For example, how does the relationship between funding sources change over the course of an investigators career? Answering questions such as this provide a much more detailed picture of the impact of federal research support on investment by other sources.