Less Funding to More Researchers Gets Nobel-level Results, Study Finds

Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency/via REUTERS
File photo: Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation, speaks during the Nobel Prize award ceremony at the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall in Stockholm, Sweden December 10, 2021.

To help achieve Nobel Prize-level breakthroughs, it is effective to distribute small amounts of funding to many researchers rather than large payments to a handful of scientists, a study has found.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture and Hirosaki University in Aomori Prefecture, indicates that it is important to extend financial support to many researchers even if they each receive only modest amounts. This finding is in contrast with the current trend of concentrated funding for a limited number of researchers.

The team examined about 180,000 projects in the life science and medical fields that received the government’s grants-in-aid for scientific research since 1991, focusing on the correlation mainly between the amount each project was provided and the number of papers they released.

The study found that rather than providing large amounts to a limited number of researchers, it is more effective to make payments of ¥5 million or less to many scientists, in terms of helping them achieve innovative results equivalent to winning the Nobel Prize, such as generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

On the other hand, when grants of ¥50 million or more were disbursed to researchers, they released fewer papers with groundbreaking results compared to before receiving the financial support, according to the study.

“Rather than focusing on the past achievements of researchers, it is desirable to disburse aid to a variety of researchers,” said Ryosuke Oniwa, associate professor at the University of Tsukuba, who led the study.