Where Do NIH Funds Go?

Even though we all know rankings are flawed, we still use them as indicators of quality. When BU’s School of Medicine advanced in the annual U.S. News and World Report survey of medical schools, the news appeared on the school’s website. Citation counts and impact factors play a role in promotion decisions despite accusations that the numbers can be manipulated.

When it comes to departmental bragging rights, one marker of excellence is total NIH funds garnered. The NIH used to release a ranking of where they allotted funds, but decided to devote its resources elsewhere. Robert Roskoski, Jr. stepped in to compile his own unofficial rankings. The retired LSU biochemistry professor analyzes raw data released by the NIH RePORTER to calculate his own ranking of grant recipients by medical school, department, and PI.

By his tally, BU’s Department of Medicine ranks 22nd among all departments of internal medicine in NIH funding for 2011. The $48 million the department brings in puts it ahead of the University of Iowa (with $45 million) but behind nationally leading Johns Hopkins with $153 million.

The count does not include funding received by Boston Medical Center (another $38 million in 2011). In fact, BMC ranks 11th of 110 teaching hospitals in grants received.

It’s absorbing to view the slices of data from different angles, but in the end the dollar totals tell only one measure of excellence.

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