Publication Rates from Biomedical and Behavioral and Social Science R01s Funded by the NIH

This article is co-authored by Drs. William T. Riley, Katrina Bibb, Sara Hargrave, and Paula Fearon.

Prior research has shown a serious lack of research transparency resulting from the failure to publish study results in a timely manner. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has increased its use of publication rate and time to publication as metrics for grant productivity. In this study, we analyze the publications associated with all R01 and U01 grants funded from 2008 through 2014, providing sufficient time for these grants to publish their findings, and identify predictors of time to publication based on a number of variables, including if a grant was coded as a behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR) grant or not.

Overall, 2.4 percent of the 27,016 R01 and U01 grants did not have a publication associated with the grant within 60 months of the project start date, and this rate of zero publications was higher for BSSR grants (4.6 percent) than for non-BSSR grants (1.9 percent). Mean time in months to first publication was 15.2 months, longer for BSSR grants (22.4 months) than non-BSSR grants (13.6 months). Survival curves showed a more rapid reduction of risk to publish from non-BSSR versus BSSR grants. Cox regression models showed that human research (versus animal, neither, or both) and clinical trials research (versus not) are the strongest predictors of time to publication and failure to publish, but even after accounting for these and other predictors, BSSR grants continued to show longer times to first publication and greater risk of no publications than non-BSSR grants.

These findings indicate that even with liberal criteria for publication (any publication associated with a grant), a small percentage of R01 and U01 grantees fail to publish in a timely manner, and that a number of factors, including human research, clinical trial research, child research, not being an early stage investigator, and conducting behavioral and social sciences research increase the risk of time to first publication.

Read the full article at PLOS ONE.