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The Benefit of a Grant

NIH spends more than $21 billion a year on research grants, reports's Karen Weintraub. But now the federal institution wants to review how much benefit all this money is bringing to science, launching a program called STAR METRICS to monitor the impact of the dollars it grants. But even if it can't be precisely quantified, scientific research can still be counted as an "economic engine," Weintraub says, especially in Boston and its surrounding communities. "The NIH sends more than 10 percent of its research grants to Massachusetts, funneling more than $2 billion a year into the local economy," she adds. "In a 2008 report, Harvard estimated that its $3.5 billion annual budget generated $4.8 billion for the local economy." And because there are so many equipment makers and medical suppliers in the area, the dollars NIH sends to Boston tend to stay in the area, Weintraub says. Innovation leads to economic growth, but it takes time for an investment to show its benefits. Weintraub quotes Martin Buxton, director of the Health Economics Research Group at Brunel University in West London, who estimates that it takes about 17 years for an investment in research to visibly pay off. How much it pays off is up for debate, but researchers seem to agree that an investment in science is always a good bet, Weintraub says.