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Return on Investment in FAER: Strong Scholarly Activity, Significant Federal Funding and Substantial Knowledge Creation

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of the ASA Monitor. Click here to read the original article.

When American Society of Anesthesiologists® (ASA®) established the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research in 1986, it aimed “to encourage promising young anesthesiologists to pursue academic careers and to facilitate the expansion of research in anesthesiology.”1  Nearly three decades, more than $25 million expended and 440 grants awarded later, what progress have we made toward this goal? What is the return on the research investment, and how does it impact the specialty and patient care as a whole?

A study by Paul S. Pagel, M.D., Ph.D., and Judith A. Hudetz, Ph.D., “Scholarly Productivity and National Institutes of Health Funding of Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research Grant Recipients,” published in the September 2015 issue of Anesthesiology, examined 397 individuals who received FAER grants between 1987 and 2012 to determine the influence of FAER funding on an individual’s scholarly productivity and ability to receive NIH funding.2

Their findings reveal the high levels of scholarly activity, significant federal funding and substantial knowledge creation of FAER grant recipients. The return on FAER and ASA investment is just phenomenal: From 1987 to 2012, FAER research grant expenses totaled about $25 million, and the recipients earned more than $448 million in NIH funding.This means that every $1 invested in a FAER grant recipient resulted in more than $17 in funding, from just NIH alone.

This validates FAER research funding mechanisms, the peer review process of the ASA Committee on Research, and everyone’s much appreciated support for FAER.

What is interesting is that a previous study by Cynthia P. King, M.Ed., M.S. and Carl C. Hug, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. also examined the return on investment in FAER grantees. Their study was published in Anesthesiology in 1998, and used a survey method to assess the subsequent research funding, career progress and publications of anesthesiologists who received ASA or FAER funding between 1973 and 1994.

Looking at all subsequent grant funding (NIH, other federal and foundation funding, and corporate grants) received by anesthesiologists who received ASA or FAER grant funding between 1973 and 1994, the return on the initial research investment was 17.4:1.1  Calculating ROI for NIH funding alone, the ratio was 11.4:1, meaning every $1 invested in an ASA or FAER grant recipient resulted in $11.45 in NIH funding. Thus, the return on the ASA and anesthesiology community’s investment in FAER has improved considerably over the past 20 years.

Additional highlights of Pagel and Hudetz’s recent study include:

  • Nearly 80 percent of FAER awardees currently hold full-time academic appointments.
  • FAER grant recipients published 19,647 manuscripts that have been cited 548,563 times.
  • Recipients received more than 390 NIH grants as principal investigators. These grants totaled more than $448 million.
  • FAER grant recipients appear to have higher levels of productivity than previously reported productivity for average academic anesthesiology faculty identified in other studies.
  • “Receiving a FAER grant may be associated with accelerated advancement in rank resulting from greater scholarly output and acquisition of NIH funding.”

FAER-funded investigators lead and represent our specialty well. This study and other outcome data have shown recipients to hold such leadership positions as: Department Chair, Dean, University Vice President and President, Officer of ASA, Member of the Institute of Medicine, NIH Study Section Member, Editor or Associate-Editor of Peer-Reviewed Journal and others.

Ultimately, the well-researched and well-presented report by Pagel and Hudetz demonstrates and substantiates the wisdom of the ASA and the anesthesiology community in their formation and support for FAER, as a mechanism for seeding and supporting the career development of future anesthesiologists-scientists, and leaders in our specialty. The knowledge that these FAER-funded investigators generate powers ongoing improvements in medicine, and their accomplishments demonstrate to our nation’s policymakers the value of anesthesiologists and anesthesiology research in advancing patient health and safety.

Note: Support for the study by Pagel and Hudetz was provided solely from institutional and/or departmental sources.



King CP, Hug CCJr . Survey of former recipients of research funding from the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research. Anesthesiology. 1998;88(2):519–524. [Article] [PubMed]

Pagel PS, Hudetz JA . Scholarly productivity and National Institutes of Health funding of Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research grant recipients. Anesthesiology. 2015;123(3):683–691. [Article] [PubMed]