Question for you: Who will fund research 10 years from now?

Answer our Future of Research poll question, then see what research funders and your peers are saying

By Alison Bert, DMA - February 4, 2020  5 mins
Future of Research Jessie DeAro
Dr. Jessie DeAro, ADVANCE and ECR Program Officer for the National Science Foundation, was a speaker and panelist at The Future of Research summit at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. (Photo by Alison Bert)

Elsevier Research Director Adrian Mulligan presents at The Future of Research summit at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.This is the first of a series of poll questions based on the study Research Futures: Drivers and Scenarios for the Next Decade, by Elsevier and Ipsos MORI.

We invite you to answer the question below and elaborate in the comments. Then see what funders said at The Future of Research summit at the University of Maryland, Baltimore – and the results of 2,055 study respondents.

As Elsevier Research Director Adrian Mulligan said, “The future doesn’t just happen to you – you shape it.”


Quick question for you

In 10 years, corporations and philanthropic organizations will fund a higher proportion of research.

Likely
Unlikely
Neither agree nor disagree

What research funders said

Michael Huerta, PhD, Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives and Associate Director of the National Library of Medicine at the NIH, speaks on The Future of Research funders panel. Other panelists were Jessie DeAro, PhD, of the NSF and Claire Broido Johnson, Managing Director of the Maryland Momentum Fund. (Photo by Alison Bert)

On the Future of Research Funding panel, two of the three panelists thought this scenario was likely. One was Dr. Michael Huerta, Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives and Associate Director of the National Library of Medicine at the NIH:

As the wealth of the country and the world increases, as does the wealth disparity, of course, I think people that have that wealth are interested in investing it,” he said. “Increasingly, that wealth comes from high technology or knowledge-based industries and commerce. So I think people see value in that. In addition, we have what’s called the “giving pledge” that billionaires have bought into, and I think that money will ultimately flow through and help support science.

Claire Broido Johnson, Managing Director of the Maryland Momentum Fund.As Managing Director of the Momentum Fund, a University System of Maryland initiative that provides seed funding for technology-based startups, Claire Broido Johnson said this trend was already happening in Maryland:

“If you look at some recent examples just in Maryland, you've got companies like CareFirst Healthworx that invested $200 million in five early-stage series A startups in just in the last 2 years, which is a lot of money – right? So … as we're seeing the wealthy get more wealthy and have a higher percentage of the total wealth, I think it's true that they're making bigger bets on earlier-stage science. And that's what I've seen from the private sector.”

Dr. Jessie DeAro, ADVANCE and ECR Program Officer for the National Science Foundation, was unsure of the likelihood of this scenario, and she emphasized the need for continued government funding regardless of whether other funding increases:

I'm not sure about this because of the unique role that government has to fill in the gaps that the market doesn't fill in. So if there's a need for basic research, the government can fill that gap. I'm not sure that the relative size of investments will change in proportion going forward.

Broido Johnson agreed that the federal government “would continue to play a huge part” and that there are indeed gaps in the investments coming from the private sector. For example, most are unlikely to invest in the earliest stages of research, she said:

A lot of big Fortune 500 companies are creating venture arms or venture groups or incubators because they don't want to miss out on the next big thing. But as a general rule, they continue to be really risk-averse. And I have found … that it is geographically focused. So you could get more funding in Silicon Valley or in Boston than you could in Maryland for an early-stage very risky investment; and that's very sad, but it's true and part of why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Broido Johnson agreed that the federal government “would continue to play a huge part” and that there are indeed gaps in the investments coming from the private sector. For example, most are unlikely to invest in the earliest stages of research, she said:

A lot of big Fortune 500 companies are creating venture arms or venture groups or incubators because they don't want to miss out on the next big thing. But as a general rule, they continue to be really risk-averse. And I have found … that it is geographically focused. So you could get more funding in Silicon Valley or in Boston than you could in Maryland for an early-stage very risky investment; and that's very sad, but it's true and part of why I'm doing what I'm doing.

The Future of Research event brought together faculty researchers, early-career researchers, funders and library and information scientists. It was presented by the Health Sciences and Human Services Library at UMB, the Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Elsevier, and the Institutes for Clinical and Translational Research at UMB and JHU.

Results from Research Futures survey

In the Research Futures report, 46 percent of respondents said this scenario was likely, 29 percent said it was unlikely and 23 percent checked “neither agree nor disagree.”


Download the report and supporting material

Research Futures report coverThe report Research Futures: drivers and scenarios for the next decade is freely available.

Elements of the underlying study data are also freely available:


Trust in Research main image

Contributors


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Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

As Executive Editor of Strategic Communications at Elsevier, Dr. Alison Bert works with contributors around the world to publish daily stories for the global science and health communities. Previously, she was Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier Connect, which won the 2016 North American Excellence Award for Science & Education.

Alison joined Elsevier in 2007 from the world of journalism, where she was a business reporter and blogger for The Journal News, a Gannett daily newspaper in New York. In the previous century, she was a classical guitarist on the music faculty of Syracuse University. She received a doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, was Fulbright scholar in Spain, and studied in a master class with Andrés Segovia.

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