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Original Contribution
September 2, 2009

Life-Science Research Within US Academic Medical Centers

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Schneider Institutes for Health Policy, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (Dr Zinner); and Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston (Dr Campbell).

JAMA. 2009;302(9):969-976. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1265

Context Besides the generic “basic” vs “applied” labels, little information is known about the types of life-science research conducted within academic medical centers (AMCs).

Objective To determine the relative proportion, characteristics, funding, and productivity of AMC faculty by the type of research they conduct.

Design Mailed survey conducted in 2007 of 3080 life-science faculty at the 50 universities with medical schools that received the most funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2004. Response rate was 74%.

Setting and Participants Research faculty affiliated with a medical school or teaching hospital, representing 77% of respondents (n = 1663).

Main Outcome Measures Type of research (basic, translational, clinical trials, health services research/clinical epidemiology, multimode, other), total funding, industry funding, publications, professional activities, patenting behavior, and industry relationships.

Results Among AMC research faculty, 33.6% exclusively conducted basic science research as principal investigators compared with translational researchers (9.1%), clinical trial investigators (7.1%), and health services researchers/clinical epidemiologists (9.0%). While principal investigators garnered a mean of $410 755 in total annual research funding, 22.1% of all AMC research faculty were unsponsored, a proportion that ranged from 11.5% for basic science researchers to 46.8% for health services researchers (P < .001). The average AMC faculty member received $33 417 in industry-sponsored funding, with most of this money concentrated among clinical trial ($110 869) and multimode ($59 916) principal investigators. Translational (61.3%), clinical trial (67.3%), and multimode (70.9%) researchers were significantly more likely than basic science researchers (41.9%) to report a relationship with industry and that these relationships contributed to their most important scientific work (P < .05 for all comparisons).

Conclusion The research function of AMCs is active and diverse, incorporating a substantial proportion of faculty who are conducting research and publishing without sponsorship.