Free-riders?: U.S. research funding for diseases causes other countries to back out, new study finds
People think strategically all the time, from choosing an outfit in the morning to playing chess—and it turns out that governments funding medical research do too.
A recent study out of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business found that for the United States—which provides about half of global funding for the 15 diseases the researchers considered—investing a dollar in medical research results in other countries pulling back about 25 cents of funding.
“I think the major takeaway from our paper is that the government funders need to consider other governments’ reactions when making their own decisions,” wrote Su Zhang, a Ph.D. candidate in economics and a co-author of the study, in an email. “Otherwise the global funding support for neglected diseases would be sub-optimal.”
The effect observed in the study—which amounts to a two to three percent decrease in funding by other countries’ funding for each 10 percent the U.S. contributes—means that the net effect of each dollar the U.S. directs toward researching a disease only provides approximately 75 cents worth of impact because of a lack of international cooperation.
Researchers looked at funding data from Policy Cures and the World Health Organization for 15 neglected parasitic and infectious diseases—including HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy and meningitis—from 2007 to 2014. The data showed that the U.S. funds over half of the world’s research for these diseases, with the next closest countries being the United Kingdom at just under five percent and France at almost three percent.
Photo courtesy of Chris Potter.