The Impact of National Institutes of Health Funding on Scholarly Productivity in Academic Plastic Surgery

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The h-index is an objective measure of an investigator’s scholarly impact. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the association between scholarly impact, as measured by the h-index, and the procurement of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant funding among academic plastic surgeons.


This was a case-control study of NIH-funded plastic surgery faculty identified on the RePORTER database. Non-NIH–funded faculty from the top 10 NIH-funded programs served as a control group. The mean h-index was calculated from Scopus (Elsevier, London, United Kingdom) and compared by funding status, academic rank, and terminal degree(s). The relationship between h-index and career NIH funding was elucidated via Spearman’s correlation coefficient.


NIH-funded faculty had higher h-indices than nonNIH–funded faculty (23.9 versus 9.9, p < 0.001), an effect that persisted when controlling for academic rank. Higher rank correlated with higher h-indices and predicted greater NIH funding (p < 0.05). The h-index did not vary by terminal degree (p > 0.05), but investigators with a master’s degree exhibited a trend toward greater NIH funding. Higher h-indices correlated with greater NIH funding (r = 0.481, p < 0.001).


A strong relationship exists between scholarly impact and the procurement of NIH funding. Faculty with greater funding had greater scholarly impact, as measured by the h-index, which suggests that this tool may have utility during the NIH grant application process.

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