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More With Less

While more prestigious schools snap up more funding, schools with lower profiles do more with the money they receive, writes Noah Smith in an opinion piece at Bloomberg.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Wayne Wahls analyzed the scientific output of 15 institutions that received between $3 million and $440 million a year in funding from the US National Institutes of Health. As he reports in a preprint posted to BioRxiv, Wahls uncovered an inverse correlation between funding and scientific output. In particular, he found prestigious institutions like Harvard and Stanford had higher grant application success rates and received larger awards. But less-prestigious institutions like the University of North Dakota or the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport exhibited a greater return on investment: they produced more publications and had a higher citation impact per dollar of funding. 

Based on this, Smith instead suggests that NIH and private donors rethink how they allocate funds. "Getting a building or a school named after you at a famous university is fun, but huge gifts like hedge fund billionaire John Paulson's $400 million donation to Harvard's engineering school in 2015 might benefit human progress more if they were given to scrappy, struggling low-ranked schools," he says.