Research funding is a term generally covering any funding for scientific
research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topic or issue. A research project ma ...
, in the areas of
natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, test ...
technology Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'', "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and , ''wikt:-logia, -logia'') is the sum of Art techniques and materials, techniques, skills, Scientific method, methods, and Business proc ...
, and social science. The term often connotes funding obtained through a competitive process, in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding. Most research funding comes from two major sources, corporations (through
research and development Research is " creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topic or issue. A research project may be an exp ...
departments) and government (primarily carried out through universities and specialized government agencies; often known as ''research councils''). A smaller amount of scientific research is funded by charitable foundations, especially in relation to developing cures for diseases such as
cancer Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or Metastasis, spread to other parts of the body. These contrast with benign tumors, which do not spread. Possible Cancer signs and symptoms, signs and ...

malaria Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever Fever, also referred to as pyrexia, is defined as having a temperature Temperature is a ph ...

, and
AIDS Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-ca ...
. According to
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Économiques, OCDE) is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental economic organisation with 37 member c ...

, more than 60% of
research and development Research is " creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topic or issue. A research project may be an exp ...
in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industry, and 20% and 10% respectively by
universities A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in various academic disciplines. Universities typically offer both undergraduate and postgraduate ...
and government. Comparatively, in countries with less GDP such as
Portugal Portugal (), officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=no ), is a country located on the Iberian Peninsula, in Southern Europe, southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state in mainland Europe, being ...
Mexico Mexico ( es, México ; Nahuan languages: ), officially the United Mexican States (; EUM ), is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; ...
, the industry contribution is significantly lower. The government funding proportion in certain industries is higher, and it dominates research in social science and
humanities Humanities are academic disciplines An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge that is Education, taught and researched at the college or university level. Disciplines are defined (in part) and recognized by the ...
. In commercial research and development, all but the most research-oriented corporations focus more heavily on near-term commercialization possibilities rather than "blue-sky" ideas or technologies (such as
nuclear fusion 400 px, The nuclear binding energy curve. The formation of nuclei with masses up to iron-56 releases energy, as illustrated above. Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atoms are combined to form one or more atomic nuclei and subat ...


Wealth was created on farms growing food. The fecundity of the earth was seen to deteriorate over years of harvests so attention was given to restoring yields. Institutionalization of this study led to demonstration farms and then agricultural experiment stations. Germany and Connecticut saw early investment of government money into science to improve their economies, and ultimately research into agricultural chemistry. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as the pace of technological progress increased before and during the
industrial revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from craft production, hand production ...
, most scientific and technological research was carried out by individual inventors using their own funds. A system of
patent NPOV disputes from March 2021 A patent is a Title (property), title that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of years in exchange for publishing an sufficiency of di ...
s was developed to allow inventors a period of time (often twenty years) to commercialise their inventions and recoup a profit, although in practice many found this difficult. The talents of an inventor are not those of a businessman, and there are many examples of inventors (e.g. Charles Goodyear) making rather little money from their work whilst others were able to market it. In the twentieth century, scientific and technological research became increasingly systematised, as corporations developed, and discovered that continuous investment in
research and development Research is " creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topic or issue. A research project may be an exp ...
could be a key element of success in a competitive strategy. It remained the case, however, that imitation by competitors - circumventing or simply flouting patents, especially those registered abroad - was often just as successful a strategy for companies focused on innovation in matters of organisation and production technique, or even in marketing. A classic example is that of Wilkinson Sword and Global Gillette, Gillette in the disposable razor market, where the former has typically had the technological edge, and the latter the commercial one.

By country

Different countries spend vastly different amounts on research, in both absolute and relative terms. For instance, South Korea spends more than 4% of their GDP on research while many less developed countries spend less than 1% (e.g. GDP Spending on R&D 0.25%).

United States

The US spent $456.1 billion for research and development (R&D) in 2013, the most recent year for which such figures are available, according to the National Science Foundation. The private sector accounted for $322.5 billion, or 71%, of total national expenditures, with universities and colleges spending $64.7 billion, or 14%, in second place.


Switzerland spent CHF 22 billion for R&D in 2015 with an increase of 10.5% compared with 2012 when the last survey was conducted. In relative terms, this represents 3.4% of the country's GDP. R&D activities are carried out by nearly 125,000 individuals, mostly in the private sector (71%) and higher education institutions (27%).


Often scientists apply for research funding which a granting agency may (or may not) approve to financially support. These ''grants'' require a lengthy process as the granting agency can inquire about the researcher(s)'s background, the facilities used, the equipment needed, the time involved, and the overall potential of the scientific outcome. The process of grant writing and grant proposing is a somewhat delicate process for both the grantor and the grantee: the grantors want to choose the research that best fits their scientific principles, and the individual grantees want to apply for research in which they have the best chances but also in which they can build a body of work towards future scientific endeavors. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom has devised an alternative method of fund-distribution: the sandpit. Most universities have research administration offices to facilitate the interaction between the researcher and the granting agency. "Research administration is all about service—service to our faculty, to our academic units, to the institution, and to our sponsors. To be of service, we first have to know what our customers want and then determine whether or not we are meeting those needs and expectations." In the United States of America, the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) serves its members and advances the field of research administration through education and professional development programs, the sharing of knowledge and experience, and by fostering a professional, collegial, and respected community.

Public funding

Government-funded research can either be carried out by the government itself, or through Grant (money), grants to researchers outside the government.

List of research councils

Research councils are (usually public) bodies that provide research funding in the form of research grants or scholarships. These include arts councils and research councils for the funding of science. An incomplete list of national and international pan-disciplinary public research councils:

Private funding

Private funding for research comes from philanthropists, crowd-funding, private companies, non-profit foundations, and professional organizations. Philanthropists and foundations have been known to pour millions of dollars into a wide variety of scientific investigations, including basic research discovery, disease cures, particle physics, astronomy, marine science, and the environment. Many large technology companies spend billions of dollars on research and development each year to gain an innovative advantage over their competitors, though only about 42% of this funding goes towards projects that are considered substantially new, or capable of yielding radical breakthroughs. New scientific start-up companies initially seek funding from crowd-funding organizations, venture capitalists, and angel investors, gathering preliminary results using rented facilities, but aim to eventually become self-sufficient. A company may share resources with a materials science society to gain proprietary knowledge or trained workers.

Hard money versus soft money

In academic contexts, hard money may refer to funding received from a government or other entity at regular intervals, thus providing a steady inflow of financial resources to the beneficiary. The antonym, soft money, refers to funding provided only through competitive research grants and the writing of grant proposals."What is a soft-money research position?"
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Hard money is usually issued by the government for the advancement of certain projects or for the benefit of specific agencies. Community healthcare, for instance, may be supported by the government by providing hard money. Since funds are disbursed regularly and continuously, the offices in charge of such projects are able to achieve their objectives more effectively than if they had been issued one-time grants. Individual jobs at a research institute may be classified as "hard-money positions" or "soft-money positions"; the former are expected to provide job security because their funding is secure in the long term, whereas individual "soft-money" positions may come and go with fluctuations in the number of grants awarded to the institution.

Influence on research

The source of funding may introduce conscious or unconscious biases into a researcher's work. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest (COIs) is used by biomedical journals to guarantee credibility and transparency of the scientific process. Conflict of interest disclosure, however, is not systematically nor consistently dealt with by journals which publish scientific research results. When research is funded by the same agency that can be expected to gain from a favorable outcome there is a potential for biased results and research shows that results are indeed more favorable than would be expected from a more objective view of the evidence. A 2003 systematic review studied the scope and impact of industry sponsorship in biomedical research. The researchers found financial relationships among industry, scientific investigators, and academic institutions widespread. Results showed a statistically significant association between industry sponsorship and pro-industry conclusions and concluded that "Conflicts of interest arising from these ties can influence biomedical research in important ways". A British study found that a majority of the members on national and food policy committees receive funding from food companies. In an effort to cut costs, the pharmaceutical industry has turned to the use of private, nonacademic research groups (i.e., contract research organizations [CROs]) which can do the work for less money than academic investigators. In 2001 CROs came under criticism when the editors of 12 major scientific journals issued a joint editorial, published in each journal, on the control over clinical trials exerted by sponsors, particularly targeting the use of contracts which allow sponsors to review the studies prior to publication and withhold publication of any studies in which their product did poorly. They further criticized the trial methodology stating that researchers are frequently restricted from contributing to the trial design, accessing the raw data, and interpreting the results. The Cochrane Collaboration, a worldwide group that aims to provide compiled scientific evidence to aid well informed health care decisions, conducts systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials of health care interventions and tries to disseminate the results and conclusions derived from them. A few more recent reviews have also studied the results of non-randomized, Observational study, observational studies. The systematic reviews are published in the Cochrane Library. A 2011 study done to disclose possible conflicts of interests [COI] in underlying research studies used for medical meta-analyses reviewed 29 meta-analyses and found that COIs in the studies underlying the meta-analyses were rarely disclosed. The 29 meta-analyses reviewed an aggregate of 509 randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Of these, 318 RCTs reported funding sources with 219 (69%) industry funded. 132 of the 509 RCTs reported author COI disclosures, with 91 studies (69%) disclosing industry financial ties with one or more authors. The information was, however, seldom reflected in the meta-analyses. Only two (7%) reported RCT funding sources and none reported RCT author-industry ties. The authors concluded "without acknowledgement of COI due to industry funding or author industry financial ties from RCTs included in meta-analyses, readers' understanding and appraisal of the evidence from the meta-analysis may be compromised." In 2003 researchers looked at the association between authors' published positions on the safety and efficacy in assisting with weight loss of olestra, a fat substitute manufactured by the Procter & Gamble (P&G), and their financial relationships with the food and beverage industry. They found that supportive authors were significantly more likely than critical or neutral authors to have financial relationships with P&G and all authors disclosing an affiliation with P&G were supportive. The authors of the study concluded: "Because authors' published opinions were associated with their financial relationships, obtaining noncommercial funding may be more essential to maintaining objectivity than disclosing personal financial interests." A 2005 study in the journal Nature surveyed 3247 US researchers who were all publicly funded (by the National Institutes of Health). Out of the scientists questioned, 15.5% admitted to altering design, methodology or results of their studies due to pressure of an external funding source. A theoretical model has been established whose simulations imply that peer review and over-competitive research funding foster mainstream opinion to monopoly.

Efficiency of funding

Most funding agencies mandate efficient use of their funds; they want to maximize outcome for their money spent. Outcome can be measured by Scientific literature, publication output, citation impact, number of
patent NPOV disputes from March 2021 A patent is a Title (property), title that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of years in exchange for publishing an sufficiency of di ...
s, number of Doctor of Philosophy, PhDs awarded etc. Another question is how to allocate funds to different disciplines, institutions, or researchers. A recent study by Wayne Walsh found that “prestigious institutions had on average 65% higher grant application success rates and 50% larger award sizes, whereas less-prestigious institutions produced 65% more publications and had a 35% higher citation impact per dollar of funding.”

See also

* :Scientific funding advisory bodies, Scientific funding advisory bodies (category) * Funding bias * Metascience * Science policy * Self-Organized Funding Allocation * Industry funding of academic research


Further reading

* Eisfeld-Reschke, Jörg, Herb, Ulrich, & Wenzlaff, Karsten (2014). Research Funding in Open Science. In S. Bartling & S. Friesike (Eds.), Opening Science (pp. 237–253). Heidelberg: Springer. * * * *

External links

Where to Search for Funding , Science , AAAS
from Science Careers, from the Journal Science.
Aggregated funding data from NIH, NSF, private foundations and EU
Seventh Framework Programme (2007–2013)
The European Unions's programme for funding and promoting research at the European level

This website contains comprehensive information on research projects already funded.
Research Councils UK
The portal for the UK-based Research Councils. {{Authority control Innovation economics Research Science in society