Positioning Academic Research Centers for Successful Grant Applications

Devin Basinger
Apr 9, 2021

The process of obtaining funding is fiercely competitive. Researchers at universities, academic research centers and research hospitals who vie for grants and donations from government, business and industry donors, as well as non-profit organizations/foundations face an uphill battle trying to convince these grant giving organizations to support their project rather than that of somebody else.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the leading supporters of biomedical research in the world, publishes detailed data about their funding activities that provide context around just how challenging it is to obtain grant funding. An extramural researcher applying for NIH funding in 2019 had to compete with 54,903 applications for a total of 11,035 grants – which comes down to a one in five chance of succeeding. [1]

NIH funding, however, is skewed towards well-known institutions: of the $29.5 billion in funding the NIH awarded in 2020 to 2,738 organizations a disproportionate amount went to top-ranked institutions. The top 5 - Johns Hopkins University, University of California, San Francisco, University of California, Los Angeles, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - secured $3.17 billion or almost 11% of the funding; the top 10 accounted for $5.7 billion, or 20%, of total funding. In other words: less than 0.4% of organizations secured almost 20% of the available funds. [2]

In this highly competitive environment, academic research centers need to closely watch, manage and communicate their scholarly footprint in order to show to grant giving agencies and donors that their return on invested research funding is stellar and that the center remains among the leading national or global research institutions - and as such worthy of their financial support. 

Understanding a research center’s scholarly footprint

Given resources like Pubmed, the existence of Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) for all publications, clinical trial registries as well as social media and citation tracking services, how hard can it be to quantify the scholarly output and footprint of the researchers in an organization? Turns out that the messiness of the data, the fact that it is scattered on different platforms, is provided by different services or needs to be manually collected makes gathering all that information difficult, time-consuming and ineffective for any single institution.

Academic research centers generally have no easy way to access that data and therefore miss a crucial component for benchmarking their own performance against that of similar organizations.

Another important aspect of an organizations scholarly footprint is even harder to track: the extent and impact of the work done at the research center on a global scale as evidenced by collaborations with members of the global scientific community. 

These networks based on co-authorship and joint clinical trials are notoriously difficult to map and quantify given changing affiliations, name disambiguation issues and the sheer volume of data from disparate sources.

Combined these challenges make it almost impossible for research centers to collect all the relevant data and develop meaningful metrics that prove their value and impact. 

All the data - one platform

At H1 we have made it our mission to connect stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem. The database we created contains over 9 million profiles of researchers and healthcare providers in 70 countries and has especially strong metrics around scholarly research, e.g. H-Index, publication and citation count as well as collaboration network analysis . Using this resource, we work with academic research institutes and help them measure and compare their scholarly footprint and assess the global impact via network analysis. These analyses help research organizations better position themselves in the competitive funding environment and ultimately access the funding necessary to continue their research.

If you want to learn more, please contact us; one of our team members will be happy to share a case study with you and discuss how H1 can work with your institution to develop impactful metrics that support your efforts to successfully apply for grant funding. 

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[1] https://www.niaid.nih.gov/grants-contracts/2019-extramural-research-overview 

[2] https://www.genengnews.com/a-lists/top-50-nih-funded-institutions-of-2020/