In Box

Prize Money

A new study shows the United States is still invested in groundbreaking research.

A recent study by three Greek researchers examined Nobel Prize-winning research in medicine, physics, and chemistry from 2000 to 2008 and found that the United States -- via the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, among other government bodies -- funds a large amount of the highest-quality scientific work, much more than all other countries combined. U.S. NGOs, such as the American Cancer Society, underwrote much of the research as well. Meanwhile, though industries fund more than half of U.S. biomedical research, their projects accounted for only about 1 percent of Nobel winners' work over the period studied. In fact, even when non-U.S. researchers won Nobels, they were often funded by U.S. sources -- suggesting the United States' grip on groundbreaking research is not loosening as fast as some might suggest.

Percentage of 2000-2008 Nobel-winning research, shown by source of funding received:

  • 57% U.S. government funding
  • 29% non-U.S. government funding
  • 20% nongovernment funding
  • 30% no outside funding
  • 1%  corporate funding

Due to overlapping funding sources, percentages do not add up to 100.

Source: Tatsioni, Vavva, Ioannidis, The FASEB Journal, May 2010

In Box

Stormy Forecast

How climate change affects trade.

For years, scientists have forecast that global warming will have a disproportionate impact on the world's poorest countries. Flooding will worsen in Bangladesh; the deserts in East Africa will expand; bigger, stronger cyclones will hit Indonesia. Now, two economists have divined yet another negative outcome of a hotter world for low-income countries: less trade.

Benjamin Jones of Northwestern and Benjamin Olken of MIT analyzed global import-export data as well as temperature and precipitation readings. They found that for poor countries, in a given year, every 1-degree Celsius increase in average nationwide temperature cut the growth rate of exports 2 to 5.7 percentage points. For rich countries, hotter or cooler temperatures had no measurable effect.

Poor countries are especially at risk because they depend so heavily on farming and light manufacturing -- think cornfields and T-shirt factories. Temperature rises wipe out crops and hurt performance among factory workers. And because such countries tend to have little domestic trade and derive most of their income from exports, small changes can add up fast. If global warming cuts the export growth rate only half a percentage point per year, after 20 years it adds up to 10 points, Jones explains -- a difference that could be even more disastrous for poor countries than the punishing weather that will accompany it.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images