The 2013 ASD Research Funding Portfolio Analysis Report is the fifth comprehensive annual review of ASD research funding across both the Federal and private sectors. Data were collected from 18 Federal and private funders, including one which was new to the Portfolio Analysis. The diverse missions of the different funders are reflected in the ASD research portfolio across the seven questions of the Strategic Plan. In 2013, Federal agencies continued to fund three-quarters of ASD research while private organizations contributed a quarter of funding. Among the participating funders, NIH continued to contribute the largest amount of funding toward autism research.
Overall, funding for ASD research among both Federal and private funders totaled $305.6 million and spanned 1,279 projects. With six years of ASD research funding data available, it was possible to continue analyzing funding trends, enabling meaningful observations about the long-term progress of the field of ASD research over the period from 2008-2013. Over the six years, autism research showed a general upward trend in funding, increasing by 38% since 2008.
One of the key aims of the Portfolio Analysis Report is to evaluate the progress made in addressing the research priorities as outlined in the Strategic Plan objectives. In 2013, significant progress was made toward completing the objectives in the 2011 Strategic Plan, with 95% (74 objectives) of the 78 objectives either partially or fully completed. Considering the period from 2008-2013, only 5% (4 objectives) of the 2011 Strategic Plan objectives were not active at any point across this six-year window. This indicates that the vast majority of priority areas identified in the Strategic Plan objectives were deemed by government and private research funders to be worthy of investment and were implemented either partially or fully. While broad implementation efforts across the vast majority of Strategic Plan objectives demonstrated commitment of Federal and private funders to pursuing the research areas prioritized by the Committee, many areas of partial funding still left significant gaps that were not filled over this period. Further attention and additional funding may be needed in the future to stimulate and develop more robust research efforts in those areas.
In addition to analysis of progress made on completing the specific research objectives outlined in the Strategic Plan, the subcategory classification system, introduced in the 2010 Portfolio Analysis, continues to provide an alternative perspective on the content of the autism research portfolio. Even with possible future changes in Strategic Plan objectives, the subcategory analysis will allow tracking of growth and change in general research areas over time, including the emergence of new fields that attract investment from research funders.
Additional analyses on the geographical distribution of autism research funding, investments in long-term (ongoing) research compared to newly funded projects, and the types of research funded by different agencies and organizations were included in this portfolio analysis to provide more detailed information on the autism research landscape for the Committee and community stakeholders.
The annual ASD Research Funding Portfolio Analysis Report assists the Committee with carrying out its charge to monitor autism activities and to inform the process of updating the IACC Strategic Plan for ASD Research. The analysis continues to serve as a resource for the Committee, funders, and the broader ASD community to identify and address knowledge gaps, recognize emerging trends and new opportunities, and guide future research priorities to better meet the needs of families and individuals affected by ASD.