May 25, 2023

Surgeon-scientists represent less than 2% of all investigators awarded NIH funding

By: Lindsay Botts

Editor's Note

A new study led by Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, finds that representation of surgeon-scientists among investigators awarded grant funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) remains at 2% over 25 years, despite surgical diseases comprising 30% of the global disease burden.

This cross-sectional study examined how NIH grant funding has been awarded to departments of surgery between 1995 and 2020 for research projects. Publicly available data from the NIH RePORTER (Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools Expenditures and Results) database was used for analysis.

While the number of investigators in surgical departments nearly doubled and total funding quadrupled over that time, the funding gap between surgeon-scientists and PhD scientists still favors PhD scientists (a $73 million difference in 1995 to a $208 million difference in 2020).

Representation of female surgeon-scientists has increased, but disparities in funding dollars persist, as female surgeon-scientists received less than 20% of NIH grants and funding dollars in 2020. Neurosurgeons and otolaryngologists have received more funding, however urologist funding has significantly decreased.

“This study suggests that research performed by surgeon-scientists continues to be underrepresented in the NIH funding portfolio, highlighting a fundamental need to support and fund more surgeon-scientists,” the authors conclude.


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