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.
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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.
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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
- Burden of disease
- Data visualization