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Examining the impact of health research facilitated by small peer-reviewed research operating grants in a women's and children's health centre

Andrew J Caddell1, Jill E Hatchette1 and Patrick J McGrath12*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Services, IWK Health Centre, 5850/5980 University Avenue, PO Box 9700, Halifax, NS, B3K 6R8, Canada

2 Department of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, B3H 3J5, Canada

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:107  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-107

Published: 20 April 2010



There has been limited research on the impact of research funding for small, institutional grants. The IWK Health Centre, a children and women's hospital in Maritime Canada, provides small amounts (up to $15,000) of research funding for staff and trainees at all levels of experience through its Research Operating Grants. These grants are rigorously peer-reviewed. To evaluate the impact of these grants, an assessment was completed of several different areas of impact.


An online questionnaire was sent to 64 Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators from Research Operating Grants awarded from 2004 to 2006. The questionnaire was designed to assess five areas of potential impact: (1) research, (2) policy, (3) practice, (4) society and (5) personal. Research impact reported by participants included publications (72%), presentations (82%) and knowledge transfer beyond the traditional formats (51%). Practice impact was reported by 67% of participants, policy impact by 15% and societal impact by 18%. All participants reported personal impact.


Small research grants yield similar impacts to relatively large research grants. Regardless of the total amount of research funds awarded, rigorously peer-reviewed research projects have the potential for significant impact at the level of knowledge transfer and changes in clinical practice and policy. Additional findings in the present research indicate that small awards have the potential to have significant impact on the individual grant holder across a variety of capacity building variables. These personal impacts are particularly noteworthy in the context of developing the research programs of novice researchers.