Monday, 26 July 2021

COVID-19 grants: who, where and how much?

Along with life science publications, Europe PMC offers a way to search through biomedical grants from Europe PMC funders using the Grant Finder tool. Last year, Europe PMC partnered with the Medical Research Council (MRC), the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) and the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GLoPID-R), to extend its search to include COVID-19 grant data from other funding organisations.

COVID-19 grant data is retrieved monthly from the COVID-19 Research Project Tracker - a live database of funded research projects across the world related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is one of the most comprehensive databases, covering a wide breadth of research disciplines.

All grant information in Europe PMC is stored in a dedicated grants database, in a machine readable format. Data can be programmatically accessed using the Europe PMC GRIST API, enabling large scale analyses of the funding landscape. To demonstrate how the grant data can be used, we have gathered some insights regarding COVID-19 funding. 

As of 10.06.2021, Europe PMC has funding information for 8839 COVID-19 grants awarded to 8193 distinct PIs (Principal Investigators). This includes grants for research on coronavirus epidemiology and virology, as well as grant awards in other relevant disciplines. In the latter case, funders such as ERC provide us with a curated list of COVID-19 related awards.

COVID-19 grants are awarded by 146 international funders, indicating that the current pandemic truly is a world-wide issue. You can see the geographical distribution of the funding organisations on the map below. Circle size correlates with the number of funders based within a selected country. Funders that could not be assigned a geographical location, which accounts for 23 funding organisations, are not represented on the map. This includes international and intergovernmental organisations. 

The data shows that ~2% of all COVID-19 grants (168 of 8839 total) are jointly supported by two or more funders.

Altogether COVID-19 grant awards amount to at least $3.9 billion (monetary value is not available for 2500 (28%) of the COVID-19 grant records). Note that grants have been awarded in 20 different currencies which we have converted to USD for this calculation. The mean average COVID-19 grant award value is ~$615,000, which is still nearly a third lower than the average value of grants awarded by Europe PMC funders (~$845,000). This could be a result of COVID-19 grants being awarded with a shorter duration than the average funding call duration for Europe PMC funder grants. Looking at grants that have both start and end dates available, the average COVID-19 grant has a duration of 30 months, compared to 40 months for regular Europe PMC funding calls, representing a similar annual value (~$235,000 for COVID-19 grants and ~$247,000 for non-COVID-19). Another explanation may be that the most common discipline in the COVID-19 tracker is social sciences, where research costs are typically lower than in the medical sciences.

These are just some examples of what we can infer from the funding information available in Europe PMC. We hope that making grant data available via an open API in a structured form will lead to more insights by other research teams in the future.

Please note that we feature examples from our programmatic users on the Europe PMC API Case Studies page. If you have used the Europe PMC GRIST API and would like to share your story please get in touch via helpdesk@europepmc.org.

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