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Political Influence behind the Veil of Peer Review: An Analysis of Public Biomedical Research Funding in the United States

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  • Deepak Hegde

Abstract

The U.S. public biomedical research system is renowned for its peer review process that awards federal funds to meritorious research performers. Although congressional appropriators do not earmark federal funds for biomedical research performers, I argue that they support allocations for those research fields that are most likely to benefit performers in their constituencies. Such disguised transfers mitigate the reputational penalties to appropriators of interfering with a merit-driven system. I use data on all peer-reviewed grants by the National Institutes of Health during the years 1984-2003 and find that performers in the states of certain House Appropriations Committee members receive 5.9-10.3 percent more research funds than those at unrepresented institutions. The returns to representation are concentrated in state universities and small businesses. Members support funding for the projects of represented performers in fields in which they are relatively weak and counteract the distributive effect of the peer review process. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Deepak Hegde, 2009. "Political Influence behind the Veil of Peer Review: An Analysis of Public Biomedical Research Funding in the United States," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(4), pages 665-690, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:52:y:2009:i:4:p:665-690
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rosenberg, Nathan & Nelson, Richard R., 1994. "American universities and technical advance in industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 323-348, May.
    2. Alvarez, R Michael & Saving, Jason L, 1997. "Congressional Committees and the Political Economy of Federal Outlays," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 92(1-2), pages 55-73, July.
    3. Weingast, Barry R & Marshall, William J, 1988. "The Industrial Organization of Congress; or, Why Legislatures, Like Firms, Are Not Organized as Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 132-163, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alberto Batinti, 2016. "NIH biomedical funding: evidence of executive dominance in swing-voter states during presidential elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 168(3), pages 239-263, September.
    2. Danielle Li, 2017. "Expertise versus Bias in Evaluation: Evidence from the NIH," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 60-92, April.
    3. Park, Hyunwoo & Lee, Jeongsik (Jay) & Kim, Byung-Cheol, 2015. "Project selection in NIH: A natural experiment from ARRA," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(6), pages 1145-1159.
    4. Margaret Blume-Kohout & Krishna Kumar & Christopher Lau & Neeraj Sood, 2015. "The effect of federal research funding on formation of university-firm biopharmaceutical alliances," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 40(5), pages 859-876, October.
    5. repec:eee:pubeco:v:156:y:2017:i:c:p:185-199 is not listed on IDEAS

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