Some of the Science Exchange team recently went to AAAS – the American Association for the Advancement of Science. While there, I went to several sessions that talked about the composition of research teams and the dedication they have to have applying for grant after grant, and often times not hearing back for months at a time, only to then see those months of hopes dashed when they are denied funding.
The NIH reports that the average research grant success rate for fiscal year 2012 was 18%.
Eighteen percent. For every 100 research teams to apply, there were 82 who didn’t receive an award. There’s also the trend that shows the increase in applications from FY 2011 to 2012:
There are also other considerations like the NIH simply not having the budget they used to have, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better according to their fiscal policy notification stating there would be no inflationary increases in FY2012 or future years.
We’ve had several labs on Science Exchange intimate that because of this perfect storm of non-funding, they would have to drastically downsize or shut their doors entirely if it weren’t for their ability to accept external work.
A fee-for-service marketplace model just makes sense because it allows the acceptance of payment for services rendered. I realize that the research community has previously been built on one-sided favors and middle authorships, but that model is unsustainable, increasingly inefficient, and frustrating if you are on the side doing the work and not getting the publication. The University of Michigan also found no correlation that an NIH awarded grant equals productivity, citing the small award percentage as a limiting factor.
Even if you are a commercial lab, there are so many limiting factors: properly educated technical staff, equipment cost, and equipment availability to name a few. You shouldn’t have to turn down work because the one instrument you have for that service is in use. Using external expertise to bolster your ability to take on new work is a logical next step to expand your reach and influence with your customers.
It’s time to look at other ways to supplement your funding. It’s time to become self-sufficient in a way that was never possible before. Your lab can increase its revenue, run its instruments at capacity, and reach researchers that would not otherwise be able to efficiently access your expertise. The choice is clear. Market-based collaboration is sorely needed and we are proud to be leading the charge.