Recent years have seen an explosion of data and metrics available to examine new findings in research and the people behind them. As these are based on research outputs (especially publications) the information available can only ever indicate advances in the recent past. Even with the advent of preprints and out-of-publication data sharing, a full understanding of research direction is not available unless the inputs into the research environment are considered. By examining research funding, a forward-looking approach can be taken to actively examine what is going to happen in the future, and use this as a basis for strategic planning.
Data on which researchers have been funded, by which funding institutions and to do what research, provides the best basis with which to analyse future research trends. What will be the big topics in the next 5 years? Which direction are the big players in the field going? These types of questions can only be answered by analysing grant funding. Funding information provides a unique insight into aspirations within the research community, and these types of questions can only be fully addressed by analysing research inputs rather than outputs.
Combining and linking funding data with other “traditional” data sources enables a more complete overview which can then be used to inform predictive studies and trend analysis, ultimately producing a better understanding of the entire research landscape now and in the future.