More Oversight Urged for Money Spent on Research

Data analysis suggests duplicate grants may be costing U.S. funding agencies millions of dollars

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Evidence suggests that U.S. funding agencies may be providing duplicate grants for research projects. But a more thorough investigation is needed, researchers say.

Using special software, the investigators compared more than 630,000 grant and contract summaries submitted to five of the largest U.S. funding agencies since 1985. They then manually reviewed projects with the highest similarity scores.

According to the findings, published in the Comment section of the current issue of the journal Nature, nearly $70 million may have been spent on projects for which a portion of the research was already being funded.

"We suspect that there may be many more cases of duplication than our analysis implies," wrote Harold Garner, of Virginia Tech University, and colleagues.

The research community should launch a thorough investigation into the true extent of duplicate funding, and needs to provide clearer and more consistent guidelines and coordination to prevent duplication, the authors said in a journal news release.

"A central database for all grant proposals would be an excellent first step," Garner concluded.

However, they added, "some of the potential duplicate grants we discovered with our software may have already been identified by the relevant agencies, which may have adjusted the award amount accordingly without updating summaries."

The authors conceded that they "could not determine definitively whether the similar grants we identified were true duplicates -- this would require access to the full grant files, which are not available to us without Freedom of Information Act requests."

More information

Learn about U.S. National Institutes of Health grants.

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