Do national funding organizations properly address the diseases with the highest burden?: Observations from China and the UK

Abstract

Recent years have witnessed an incipient shift in science policy from a focus mainly on academic excellence to a focus that also takes into account “societal impact”. This shift raises the question as to whether medical research has given proper attention to the diseases imposing the greatest burden on society. Therefore, with the aim of identifying correlations between research funding priorities and public demand in health, we examine grants issued by the major medical research funding bodies of China and the UK during 2006–2017 and compare the focus of their funded projects with the diseases that carry the highest burden of death, risk, or loss of health. The results indicate that the funding decisions of both nations do correspond to the illnesses with the highest health impact on their citizens. For both regions, the greatest health concerns surround non-communicable diseases, and neoplasms and cardiovascular disease in particular. In China, national health priorities have remained focused on these illnesses for the benefit of its own population, whereas the UK has funded a wider variety of research, extending to projects with impacts outside its borders to some developing countries. Additionally, despite an increased incidence of mental illness and HIV/AIDs in China, there is evidence that less priority has been given to these conditions. Both of these health areas seem to require more attention from China’s national funding agencies and the society in general. Methodologically, this study can serve as an example of how to conduct analyses related to public health issues by combining informetric methods and data with the tools and data from other fields, thereby inspiring other scientometrics studies.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13

Notes

  1. 1.

    https://www.altmetric.com/top100/2019/.

  2. 2.

    https://www.nsfc.gov.cn/publish/portal0/tab505/.

  3. 3.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-research-and-innovation.

  4. 4.

    https://ii.nlm.nih.gov/MTI/.

  5. 5.

    https://ii.nlm.nih.gov/MTI/index.shtml.

  6. 6.

    https://npd.nsfc.gov.cn/; https://isisn.nsfc.gov.cn/egrantindex/funcindex/prjsearch-list

  7. 7.

    https://gtr.ukri.org/search/project?term=*

  8. 8.

    https://ghdx.healthdata.org/gbd-results-tool.

  9. 9.

    https://ii.nlm.nih.gov/MTI/index.shtml.

  10. 10.

    https://www.ncbinlmnih.gov/CBBresearch/Wilbur/IRET/TexTool/.

  11. 11.

    https://www.nsfc.gov.cn/publish/portal0/tab558/.

References

  1. Agarwal, P., & Searls, D. B. (2009). Can literature analysis identify innovation drivers in drug discovery? Nature Reviews Drug Discovery,8, 865–878.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson, R. S. (1999). Patrick Blackett in India: Military consultant and scientific intervenor, 1947–72. Part two. Notes and Records of the Royal Society,53(3), 345–359.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Atala, I., Trinquart, L., Ravaud, P., et al. (2018). A mapping of 115,000 randomized trials revealed a mismatch between research effort and health needs in non-high. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology,98, 123–132.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Begum, M., Lewison, G., Jassem, J., et al. (2018). Mapping cancer research across Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation and Central Asia: Implications for future national cancer control planning. European Journal of Cancer,104, 127–136.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Begum, M., Lewison, G., Wright, J. S. F., et al. (2016). European non-communicable respiratory disease research, 2002–13: Bibliometric study of outputs and funding. PLoS ONE,11(4), e0154197.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Blackett, P. M. S. (1971). Report to the Leverhulme Trust.

  7. Cassi, L., Lahatte, A., Rafols, I., et al. (2017). Improving fitness: Mapping research priorities against societal needs on obesity. Journal of Informetrics,11(4), 1095–1113.

    Google Scholar 

  8. China News Service (CNS) (Producer). (2014). 87,000 new HIV/AIDs cases were report from January to October in 2014 in China, more than 90% of new HIV/AIDs infections incidences were transmitted through sex (in Chinese). Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://www.chinanews.com/gn/2014/12-01/6832929.shtml.

  9. Chow, E. P. F., Lau, J. T. F., Zhuang, X., et al. (2014). HIV prevalence trends, risky behaviours, and governmental and community responses to the epidemic among men who have sex with men in China. BioMed Research International,2014, 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Ciarli, T., & Ràfols, I. (2019). The relation between research priorities and societal demands: The case of rice. Research Policy,48(8), 949–967.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Cui, Y., Guo, W., Li, D., et al. (2016). Estimating HIV incidence among key affected populations in China from serial cross-sectional surveys in 2010–2014. Journal of the International AIDS Society,19(1), 20609.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Ding, Y., Chowdhury, G. G., & Foo, S. (2001). Bibliometric cartography of information retrieval research by using co-word analysis. Information Processing and Management,37(6), 817–842.

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  13. Ebadi, A., & Schiffauerova, A. (2016). How to boost scientific production? A statistical analysis of research funding and other influencing factors. Scientometrics,106(3), 1093–1116.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Evans, J. A., Shim, J.-M., & Ioannidis, J. P. A. (2014). Attention to local health burden and the global disparity of health research. PLoS ONE,9(4), e90147.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Gakidou, E., Cowling, K., Lozano, R., et al. (2010). Increased educational attainment and its effect on child mortality in 175 countries between 1970 and 2009: A systematic analysis. Lancet,376(9745), 959–974.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Gao, J., Su, C., Wang, H., et al. (2019). Research fund evaluation based on academic publication output analysis: The case of Chinese research fund evaluation. Scientometrics,119(2), 959–972.

    Google Scholar 

  17. GBD 2017 Causes of Death Collaborators. (2018). Global, regional, and national age-sex-specific mortality for 282 causes of death in 195 countries and territories, 1980–2017: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet,392(10159), 1736–1788.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gillum, L. A., Gouveia, C., Dorsey, E. R., et al. (2011). NIH disease funding levels and burden of disease. PLoS ONE,6(2), e16837.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Gross, C. P., Anderson, G. F., & Powe, N. R. (1999). The relation between funding by the National Institutes of Health and the burden of disease. New England Journal of Medicine,340(24), 1881–1887.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Hagenaars, N., de Kruif, T., van de Laar, L., et al. (2019). The relationship between publication volume of biomedical research and burden of disease. OSF Preprint. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/jeuar.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Halffman, W., & Leydesdorff, L. (2010). Is inequality among universities increasing? Gini coefficients and the elusive rise of elite universities. Minerva,48(1), 55–72.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hicks, D. J., Stahmer, C., & Smith, M. (2018). Impacting capabilities: A conceptual framework for the social value of research. Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics,3, 24.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Hicks, D. J., & Stapleford, T. A. (2016). The virtues of scientific practice: MacIntyre, virtue ethics, and the historiography of science. Isis,107(3), 449–472.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Kalita, A., Shinde, S., & Patel, V. (2015). Public health research in India in the new millennium: A bibliometric analysis. Global Health Action,8(1), 27576.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kinge, J. M., Roxrud, I., Vollset, S. E., et al. (2014). Are the Norwegian health research investments in line with the disease burden? Health Research Policy and Systems,12(64), 1–8.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Klavans, R., & Boyack, K. W. (2017). The research focus of nations: Economic vs. altruistic motivations. PLoS ONE,12(1), e0169383.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Mitchell, R. J., McClure, R. J., Olivier, J., et al. (2009). Rational allocation of Australia's research dollars: Does the distribution of NHMRC funding by National Health Priority Area reflect actual disease burden? Medical Journal of Australia,191(11–12), 648–652.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Morillo, F. (2019). Collaboration and impact of research in different disciplines with international funding (from the EU and other foreign sources). Scientometrics,120(2), 807–823.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Mork, J. G., Aronson, A., & Demner-Fushman, D. (2017). 12 years on—Is the NLM medical text indexer still useful and relevant? Journal of Biomedical Semantics,8(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13326-017-0113-5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Mork, J. G., Yepes, A. J. J., & Aronson, A. R. (2013). The NLM Medical Text Indexer System for indexing biomedical literature. BioASQ@ CLEF.

  31. Murray, C. J. L. (2007). Good practices for health statistics: Lessons from the Millennium Development Goal health indicators. Lancet,369(9564), 826–873.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Murray, C. J. L., & Frenk, J. (2008). Health metrics and evaluation: Strengthening the science. Lancet,371(9619), 1191–1199.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Mutapi, F. (2019). Africa should set its own health-research agenda. Nature,575(7784), 567.

    Google Scholar 

  34. National Natural Science Foundation of China. (2019). National natural science fund guide to programs 2019. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from https://www.nsfc.gov.cn/english/site_1/pdf/NationalNaturalScienceFundGuidetoPrograms2019.pdf.

  35. National Science Foundation. (2018). Proposal & award policies & procedures guide. Retrieved Feburary 21, 2020, from https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg18_1/pappg_3.jsp#IIIA2.

  36. Prüss-Üstün, A., Mathers, C., Corvalán, C., et al. (2003) Introduction and methods: Assessing the environmental burden of disease at national and local levels. In Environmental burden of disease series No. 1. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO).

  37. Ràfols, I., & Yegros, A. (2017). Is research responding to health needs? Available at SSRN. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3106713.

  38. Røttingen, J.-A., Regmi, S., Eide, M., et al. (2013). Mapping of available health research and development data: What's there, what’s missing, and what role is there for a global observatory? Lancet,382(9900), 1286–1307.

    Google Scholar 

  39. ScienceDaily (Producer). (2011). How inflammation can lead to cancer. Science News. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419091159.htm.

  40. Shaw, J. (2019). Raw and Red-Hot: Could inflammation be the cause of myriad chronic conditions? Harvard Magazine. Retrieved July 13, 2019, from https://harvardmagazine.com/2019/05/inflammation-disease-diet.

  41. Shibayama, S. (2011). Distribution of academic research funds: A case of Japanese national research grant. Scientometrics,88(1), 43–60.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Stilgoe, J., Owen, R., & Macnaghten, P. (2013). Developing a framework for responsible innovation. Research Policy,42(9), 1568–1580.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Tang, L., Hu, G., & Liu, W. (2017). Funding acknowledgment analysis: Queries and caveats. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology,68(3), 790–794.

    Google Scholar 

  44. The World Bank (Ed.). (1993). World development report, 1993. Investing in health. New York: Oxford University Press for the World Bank.

    Google Scholar 

  45. The World Bank. (2017). Population ages 65 and above (% of total population). Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.65UP.TO.ZS?end=2017&locations=CNGB&start=1960&view=chart.

  46. Viergever, R. F., Olifson, S., Ghaffar, A., et al. (2010). A checklist for health research priority setting: Nine common themes of good practice. Health Research Policy and Systems,8(1), 36.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Wallace, M. L., & Ràfols, I. (2018). Institutional shaping of research priorities: A case study on avian influenza. Research Policy,47(10), 1975–1989.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Wang, L., Guo, W., Li, D., et al. (2015). HIV epidemic among drug users in China: 1995–2011. Addiction,110(01), 20–28.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Wang, L., Tang, W., Wang, L., et al. (2014). The HIV, syphilis, and HCV epidemics among female sex workers in China: Results from a serial cross-sectional study between 2008 and 2012. Clinical Infectious Diseases,59(1), 1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Wang, X., Liu, D., Ding, K., et al. (2012). Science funding and research output: A study on 10 countries. Scientometrics,91(2), 591–599.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Wang, Y., Li, X., Zhou, M., et al. (2016). Under-5 mortality in 2851 Chinese counties, 1996–2012: A subnational assessment of achieving MDG 4 goals in China. Lancet,387(10015), 273–283.

    Google Scholar 

  52. World Health Organization (WHO). (2012a). Background document provided by the WHO Secretariat-Defining disease types I, II and III. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.who.int/phi/3-background_cewg_agenda_item5_disease_types_final.pdf.

  53. World Health Organization (WHO). (2012b). Research and development to meet health needs in developing countries: Strengthening global financing and coordination. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.who.int/phi/cewg_report/en/.

  54. World Health Organization (WHO). (2017). WHO global observatory on health research and development (R&D)—Terms and conditions of use. Retrieved April 14, 2019, from https://www.who.int/research-observatory/portal/Global_RD_Observatory_Conditions_of_Use.pdf?ua=1.

  55. Xie, Y., Zhang, C., & Lai, Q. (2014). China’s rise as a major contributor to science and technology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,111(26), 9437–9442.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Yegros, A., Van de Klippe, W., Abad-Garcia, M. F., et al. (2019). Exploring why global health needs are unmet by research efforts: The potential influences of geography, industry, and publication incentives. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3459230. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3459230.

  57. Zhang, L., Zhao, W., Liu, J., et al. (2019). Do national funding organizations address the diseases with the highest burden adequately?—Observations from China and the UK. In Proceedings of ISSI 2019—The 17th international conference on scientometrics and informetrics (pp. 826–837). Rome: Sapienza University.

  58. Zhao, X., Gao, X., & Pe, H. (2009). The h-index of science funding: Comprehensive characterization of the quantity and impact of funded papers. Bulletin National Nature Science Foundation of China,23(1), 15–18.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Zhou, P., & Tian, H. (2014). Funded collaboration research in mathematics in China. Scientometrics,99(3), 695–715.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Zhu, X. (2012). Understanding China’s growth: Past, present, and future. Journal of Economic Perspectives,26(4), 103–124.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The present study is an extended version of an article presented at the 17th International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics, Rome (Italy), 2–5 September 2019 (Zhang et al. 2019). The authors would like to acknowledge support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 71573085; 71974150), the National Social Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 18VSJ087) and the National Laboratory Center for Library and Information Science in Wuhan University. We thank Ismael Rafols (Ingenio (CSIC-UPV), Universitat Politècnica València) for inspiring discussions.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ying Huang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhang, L., Zhao, W., Liu, J. et al. Do national funding organizations properly address the diseases with the highest burden?: Observations from China and the UK. Scientometrics (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03572-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Funding
  • Burden of disease
  • NSFC
  • MRC
  • Data visualization