Public investment in medical science and research is considered to be a legitimate and core
role for government and charitable medical research foundations. It is not clear however, whether
resource allocation in medical research has been cost-effective and equitable so that limited resources
maximize the health benefits for the population served. Evidence based medicine relies on evaluation
and comparative assessment of research findings. Accountability is a key aspect of this evaluation to
ensure that taxpayers and charitable organizations are getting value for money in their investment and
healthcare delivery benefits from the findings of medical research. In medical research there are
informational asymmetries present between scientists, decision makers and the public. While research
evaluation is based on a peer review process with scores given by a panel of expert reviewers, the current
allocation ofresearch funding and determination of priorities is also affected by lobby efforts and public
opinion. This means that the uneducated consumer demand from lobbyist groups could result in research
with a greater probability of success or impact in the findings receiving less funding than the research that
gets the greatest hype and publicity.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research is particularly lacking in this type of economic
evaluation. This is of increasing importance, as over the past decade the reported prevalence of ASD
has been increasing. The increase in prevalence is often cited as the primary justification for the large
increase in research funding for ASD that has occurred in both the public and private sectors. What is not
known, however, is whether enough funding is available for ASD research or whether the allocation of
ASD research funding across various research areas is appropriate or efficient.
Zwicker, Jennifer. (2013). Assessing Subjective Probabilities of Success in Autism Research ( Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.