Can Private Money Buy Public Science? Disease Group Lobbying and Federal Funding for Biomedical Research
Forthcoming in Management Science
47 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2011 Last revised: 8 Jan 2015
Date Written: July 16, 2014
Lobbying is an important non-market strategy pursued by private interest groups to influence public policy. However, little is known about how lobbying influences policy decisions made by federal agencies. We study this through examining lobbying by advocacy groups associated with rare diseases for funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world’s largest funder of biomedical research. Disease group lobbying for NIH funding has been controversial, with critics alleging that it distorts public science funding towards diseases with powerful groups. Our data reveal that lobbying is associated with higher political support, in the form of Congressional “soft earmarks” for the diseases. Lobbying increases with disease burden and is more likely to be associated with changes in NIH funding for diseases with higher scientific opportunity, suggesting it may have a useful informational role. Only special grant mechanisms that steer funding towards particular diseases, which comprise less than a third of NIH’s grants, are related to earmarks. Thus, our results suggest that lobbying by private groups influences federal funding for biomedical research. However, the channels of political influence are subtle, affect a small portion of funding, and may not necessarily have a distortive effect on public science.
Keywords: Lobbying, Special Interest Groups, National Institutes of Health, R&D
JEL Classification: O30, D72, P16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation