Funding Acknowledgement Analysis – An Enhanced Tool to Investigate Research Sponsorship Impacts

Extended Abstract – MINING NOVEL DATA SOURCES   session at “1st Global TechMining Conference” 2011

Author(s): Jue Wang (Florida International University) and Philip Shapira (University of Manchester)

There is increasing interest in assessing how sponsored research funding influences the development and trajectory of science and technology. Traditionally, linkages between research funding and subsequent results are hard to track, often requiring access to separate funding or performance reports released by researchers or sponsors. Tracing research sponsorship and output linkages is even more challenging when researchers receive multiple funding awards and collaborate with a variety of differentially-sponsored research colleagues.

This study presents a novel bibliometric approach to undertaking funding acknowledgement analysis which links research outputs with their funding sources. We use the WoS funding acknowledgements fields, which contain data on research funding agencies, grant award numbers and associated funding acknowledgments text reported by paper authors. This is a valuable new source of data to examine the scope and interests of funding agencies and to link research publication outputs with funding sources. It allows us to investigate a dataset that is substantially larger than would be feasible with prior manually-coded methods.

Using this approach in the context of nanotechnology research, the study probes the funding patterns of leading countries and agencies including patterns of cross-border research sponsorship. We identify more than 91,500 nanotechnology articles published worldwide during a twelve-month period in 2008-2009. About 67% of these publications include funding acknowledgements information. We compare articles reporting funding with those that do not (for reasons that may include reliance on internal core funding rather than external awards as well as omissions in reporting). While we find some country and field differences, we judge that the level of reporting of funding sources is sufficiently high to provide a basis for analysis. We use this funding acknowledgments data to compare nanotechnology funding policies and programs in selected countries and to examine their impacts on scientific output. We also examine the internationalization of research funding through the interplay of various funding sources at national and organizational levels. We find that while most nanotechnology funding is nationally-oriented, internationalization and knowledge exchange does occur as researchers collaborate across borders.

Funding acknowledgement analysis has limitations. Not all research sponsorship leads to publication: research sponsorship may also be used to fund infrastructural facilities and equipment or student training. Funding acknowledgement analysis may underestimate the impact of funding devoted to applied or undisclosed studies. In some cases, sponsored research (especially if supported by private corporations or
defense agencies) may be kept confidential or be embodied in patents and other technological developments. There are variations in reporting of funding by countries, and where this is due to unreported core funding this may lead to an underestimate of the contribution of national funding.

Despite these limitations, we suggest that funding acknowledgement provides a new lens that allows us to quantify and investigate the various relationships between funding and publications. Unlike other funding tracing techniques that rely on special grant databases, this method uses standard and publicly available data which now makes it possible to do large scale analyses across multiple factors including institutions,
countries, and fields of science.

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