When MIT decided not to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, I was curious what financial motivations might be at play. One factor was likely the risk of losing some research relationships, primarily through sponsored research. Sponsored research is when an organization (company, foundation, or government organization) funds a Principle Investigator (PI), a position that’s often occupied by a professor, to research a topic of common interest between the PI and that organization.
I wondered how much money might be at stake: 1% of total sponsored research, 10%? MIT’s Office of the Vice President for Finance publishes the data needed to answer this question in the annual “Report of Sponsored Research Activity (aka the Brown Book)”. As I started working on the project (and still am), I realized that my analysis could be generalized to look at sponsored research funding across all industries. And, by adding gender, position, and department data, I could create metrics similar to those used to describe income inequality and the gender pay gap.