Radiology Funding Swells Over Two Decades

September 8, 2020

Nearly half of radiology research now secures funding, but financial support – or lack thereof – does not seem to determine impact or influence in the field.

Almost half of radiology research published in major journals now have declared funding. That number is a significant leap since 2001.

In a study published Sept. 3 in the American Journal of Roentgenology, researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen in The Netherlands revealed that funded radiology investigations have skyrocketed from 17 percent in 1994 and 26.9 percent consistently between 2001 and 2010 to nearly 50 percent.

According to lead study author Rayan H.M. Alkhawtani, from the radiology, nuclear medicine, and molecular imaging department, the majority of the funding was from public sources. Most funded studies secured financial backing from federal sponsors or non-profit organizations. Fewer received support from private industry.

The team also discovered, he said, that the rate of funding had no association with citation rate, a metric frequently used to determine an investigation’s level of impact.

“This information may be valuable to both researchers and funding organizations that plan to generate and disseminate the most impactful research in radiology,” the team said, noting that this is the first investigation to examine the relationship between funding and citation rate. “We found that funded articles did not have a higher citation rate and that they also were not downloaded more frequently.”

Based on this analysis, the team wondered whether funding sources are allocating their dollars to research that will have the most significant impact. It also begs the question, they said, of whether formal funding is necessary for investigators to achieve equal scientific influence.

The push toward greater funding for radiology research began in 1994, the authors said, when investigators recognized the low-level of funding. To reverse the trend, they became more active and aggressive in pursuing financial support.

To determine how well those efforts worked, Alkhawtani’s team evaluated 600 consecutive original research articles that were published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, Radiology, and European Radiology between January and October 2016. Specifically, they examined the relationship between research funding and citation rate, adjusting for several factors.

Based on that analysis, they determined 47.7 percent of radiology research receives funding, and most of it comes from six main sources:

  •  Federal sponsorship: 29.4 percent
  •  Non-profit foundations: 16.4 percent
  •  Federal sponsorship and non-profit foundations: 16.1 percent
  •  Private industry: 10.1 percent
  •  Intramural institutions research funding: 9.8 percent

The remaining 18.2 percent comes from a combination of sources.

The team also discovered that studies published in Radiology were significantly more likely to received funding (p<0.001). Additionally, funded articles had, on average, more authors and were more likely to be published immediately as open-source research. Conversely, the team determined investigations with first authors from Europe, vascular and interventional radiology articles, and articles published in the American Journal of Roentgenology were more likely to be unfunded (p<0.001 for all characteristics).

Overall, they said, the citation rate was not significantly different between funded and unfunded articles. Nor were funded articles downloaded more frequently. This lack of differences could be viewed as beneficial by many radiology researchers, they said.

“This information may be encouraging for junior researchers who do not yet have an established track record and for whom acquisition of funding may be more challenging than it is for senior researchers who have a certain reputation in their field,” the team said. “The same applies to researchers who live in regions in which funding resources are constrained.”