A listing of public and philanthropic funders of health research


Why has this website been established?

Our current knowledge about which organizations fund health research, in which areas of health, and in which countries, is limited. Several research studies, such as Røttingen et al (2013) and Terry et al (2012), have drawn attention to this problem. This website aims to contribute to addressing this problem by providing a global listing of public and philanthropic organizations that fund health research. The launch of the website was accompanied by the publication of an article, which explains more about the website and why it is needed:

The 10 largest public and philanthropic funders of health research in the world: what they fund and how they distribute their funds. Roderik F. Viergever and Thom C. C. Hendriks. Health Research Policy and Systems, 2016,14:12. DOI: 10.1186/s12961-015-0074. https://health-policy-systems.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12961-015-0074-z .

In addition to the information below, the article also provides more information about the methods used to develop this website. The Addition File 1 in this article provides an even more extensive description of the methods used.

Do you intend to make a profit with this website?

No, the website was developed as part of a post-doc research project at the Radboud universty medical center Nijmegen on a not-for-profit basis. No specific funding was received to establish the website.

Can I use, share or adapt the information on this website?

Yes, you can even download the data in Excel format from the tab “Downloads”. We make these data available to everyone under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ ). This means that: 1) you can share these data as long as appropriate reference is made to this website; 2) you can adapt the data, such as building from our data, as long as you indicate what changes were made, and as long as you share the results of your adaptations under the same license; 3) you may not use the data for commercial purposes.

Most of the information on this website is publicly available and was collected from other reports and databases. Some information was collected through personal communications with funders, which is always noted in the descriptions of sources. When you report information on individual funding organizations from this website, we ask that you also include a reference to the original source of information.

Why is the number of funding organizations listed in your database so low?

At this moment, the data on this website are still limited. They were mostly collected as part of a study that aimed to identify the 10 largest funders of health research in the world. An article describing this data collection effort will soon be published. To the data collected for this study we have added data from other databases on health research funders, which provide such data for certain countries or regions (see the tab Change Log). In the future, we aim to further populate this database with data from other funding organizations. If you are a funder of health research and you wish to see your organization admitted to this list, or if you are another organization or individual who wishes to help us populate this database, please email us at data@healthresearchfunders.org.

Which types of funding organizations do you report on?

The annual health research expenditures of various types of funding organizations are reported here: public funders, public funders who fund health research through Official Development Assistance (ODA), multilateral funders, philanthropic funders, and public private partnerships (PPP). Although it would be informative to also report figures for private funders of health research, this information is difficult to collect. We may try to expand to reporting this type of information in the future. Finally, so far we have not included Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) in our database. In terms of funding health research, PDPs are somewhat unique because they are often both recipients and distributors of health research funds. For now, we chose not to include them. PPPs that predominantly fund research, such as the European Commission’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), were included.

In the tab “Health research funding organizations” you list organizations’ expenditures on health research in “2013 US dollars”. In the individual organizations’ records you also list the organizations’ expenditures in “million 2013 PPP US dollars”. What do these different numbers mean?

There are various way to report on health research expenditures. In doing so, it is important to take inflation into account when expenditures are reported for different years, and to use the right currency exchange rates. Possible methods for comparing expenditures on health research across countries and from different years are discussed in Young et al (2014). An article with more detail on these methods will be published at a later stage.

In this dataset, first, we report the original number as reported by the funder for the year for which it was reported (the entry called “Annual funding for health research in original currency” on each organization’s individual record, see here for an example).

Second, we report the number in “million 2013 US dollars”. To arrive at this number, we have corrected the original number for inflation in the original currency and converted it to US dollars. To do so, we used the level of inflation (in GDP) of the country in which the funder is based between the year for which the funding was reported and 2013. For example, if a funder reported their total expenditures on health research in 2010, and the country where the funder was based had 6% inflation between 2010 and 2013, we multiplied the expenditures in the original currency by 1.06. The source we used for making these calculations was the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook Database of April 2014 (data under “Gross domestic product, deflator”). After this, we converted the inflation-corrected expenditures to US dollars using exchange rates for the year 2013. The source we used for this last step was the World Bank Official exchange rates (local currency units relative to the U.S. dollar, period average).

Third, an alternative way to present funding organizations’ health research expenditures is to report them as purchasing power parities (PPP). This is, for example, the common way of reporting countries’ health research expenditures (see Young et al (2014) and Røttingen et al (2013)). The advantage of this method is that it takes into account the cost of health R&D in countries. More R&D can be bought in some countries than in others for the same amount of funding because the costs are lower. To arrive at this number, we took the inflation-corrected expenditures in the original currency for each funder and converted this number to PPP US dollars using PPP conversion rates for the year 2013. The source we used for these calculations was the IMF World Economic Outlook Database of April 2014 (data under “Implied PPP conversion rate”).

We chose “2013 US dollars” as the primary reporting measure for this website, and not “2013 PPP US dollars”, because funding organizations of health research regularly fund research in multiple countries. Taking into account the cost of R&D in the country where the funder is based is therefore often not appropriate. However, because there are also various funders of health research in our database who do often mainly fund national research, we report organizations’ expenditures in “2013 PPP US dollars” on this website as a secondary measure, in each organization’s individual record.

Why are the funding amounts you list for several government ministries lower than stated in their annual reports?

There are two reasons for this. First, regularly, ministries provide funding to public funding agencies. Such funding was not included in ministries’ expenditures. In the USA, for example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides funding for health research to several agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). For our database, we have included the annual health research expenditures for each of these agencies, and we have not included these amounts as expenditures for HHS.

Second, in making this website, we were primarily interested in direct project- or investigator-funding for health research and not in funding for health research provided to universities or hospitals in the form of block grants (similar to other initiatives that have reported on health research funding flows). Government ministries, such as ministries of education or health, often provide a substantial proportion of their funding for health research to universities or hospitals in the form of block grants. Therefore, for ministries, we excluded this type of block funding. For funding agencies, with whom the proportion of funding that is provided to universities or hospitals in the form of block grants is often lower (because the majority of funding is distributed through project- or investigator-grants), we did include institutional funding in order to be complete in reporting these agencies’ overall health research expenditures.

Can I add the data on this website to arrive at a total amount of health research spending for public and philanthropic organizations?

No. The data on annual health research expenditures cannot be added to arrive at a total for these organizations’ health research spending, since some numbers are overlapping. For example, the European Research Council is funded by the European Commission, so if all numbers were added, this amount of funding would be double counted. See this article by Røttingen et al (2013) for an overview of the total health research expenditures of various countries and of various sectors (e.g. public and private for-profit).

What do you mean by the term ‘health research’?

We have chosen to use the term ‘health research’ on this website. However, we could also have chosen to use terms ‘research for health’ or ‘health research and development (R&D)’. We define the ‘research’-part of health research as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines R&D: “Research and experimental development comprise creative work undertaken on a systematic base in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge about man, culture and society, and the use of this knowledge to devise new applications.” R&D is generally subdivided into basic research, applied research and experimental development.

We have thus defined health research to include experimental development of medical products. However, we have not limited our definition of health research to product development, as some studies on health research funding flows have, and view it to also include fields such as epidemiology, health-related social research and health systems research.

What measures for health research expenditures did you collect?

Funding organizations report differently on their health research expenditures. Preferably, we collected information on the actual expenditures of a funding organization in the area of health research, excluding funders’ operational costs. However, this information was not always available. Therefore, in the Excel database that can be downloaded under the tab Downloads, we denoted how funding organizations reported their health research expenditures. The manner in which organizations’ reported their expenditures varied in three ways. First, in terms of the reporting format of the funding data, i.e. I) actual expenditures, II) commitments or III) budgets. Second, in terms of what the expenditures cover, i.e. 1) health research expenditures, excluding operational costs of the funding organization, 2) health research expenditures, including operational costs of the funding organization, or 3) total overall turnover for the funding organization over a single fiscal year (which was only denoted if the funding organization exclusively funded health research). Third, in terms of the research areas that the reported expenditures pertained to, i.e. A) only health research, B) health and biological research, or C) life sciences research.

Why are the funding amounts you list for several funding agencies different from what is stated in their annual reports?

Preferably, we collected information on the actual expenditures of a funding organization in the area of health research, excluding funders’ operational costs. Sometimes, when funding organizations reported their own annual expenditures on health research, they included operational costs for running the funding organization, or funds allocated towards non-research expenditures such as science education or research training, or they reported annual commitments rather than actual expenditures. To be able to report funding organizations’ health research expenditures as consistently as possible across all organizations, we deviated from funding organizations’ reported numbers for their annual health research expenditures when we found further information that allowed us to report their expenditures more in line with our own reporting format. This meant that sometimes we deducted a funder’s expenditures for operational costs or for science education or research training from the annual health research expenditures reported by the funding organization itself. Sometimes an organization reported its commitments as a primary measure of its annual health research expenditures, but they also reported their actual expenditures as a secondary measure, in which case we included the data on the organization’s actual expenditures, not their commitments.

Are there other sources of information on health research funding organizations?

Yes, there are several. An overview of some of these sources is provided on the tab “More resources”. Most of these databases are limited to funding organizations in certain regions or countries, such as the United Kingdom, or to what heath research funding organizations spend on specific areas of research, such as neglected disease research. Others provide information on what countries spend on health research, such as this article by Røttingen et al (2013). Yet others provide listings of projects that are taking place in certain regions or countries, such as World RePORT. Healthresearchfunders.org has a somewhat different goal, in that it aims to provide a comprehensive overview of all funding organizations of health research in the world, including their annual expenditures on health research.

Who maintains this database?

This website is maintained by Roderik Viergever, MD PhD, a scientist that focuses on issues in health research governance. To contact Roderik you can email info@healthresearchfunders.org.