The National Institutes of Health spends over $30 billion annually on health research (around 0.2% of US GDP), and other government agencies spend billions more. Recent estimates for the UK suggest total research spending on health is around £8 billion annually, with £3.3bn (coincidentally around 0.2% of UK GDP) of that being publicly-funded research carried out in the university and not-for-profit sectors (UKCRC, 2012).
Estimating the returns to that spending has been difficult, however. Most health research funding goes to laboratory science, with smaller but non-negligible amounts allocated to data collection and behavioral/social research. Research papers are the proximate output of this financial support to researchers; sometimes, there are patents as well. But how do research papers and patents translate into the ultimate outcomes society cares about – quality of life and the dollars involved in generating that quality?
Funding for this network is provided by the National Institute on Aging through grant R24AG058049 to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and by the Economic and Social Research Council through grant ES/M008673/1 to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
For more information, contact valmed @ nber.org