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OARacle Newsletter

In March, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) released its 2019-2020 IACC Autism Research Portfolio Analysis Report. The report analyzes research funding activities across the United States to track autism research funding of federal agencies and private research organizations across the United States. 

The report provides comprehensive information about U.S. autism research funding to help the IACC in its efforts to monitor autism research progress and trends. This information is also used by advocacy organizations, government agencies, private funders, and the broader autism community to understand the autism research funding landscape. In addition to the full report, a new At-a-Glance summary provides an overview of the key findings of the report. 

U.S. autism research was funded at the highest ever levels in 2019 and 2020, totaling $424.2 million and spanning 1,604 projects in 2019 and totaling $418.9 million and spanning 1,573 projects in 2020. Federal agencies accounted for approximately 82% of total funding and private organizations for almost 18% of total funding. Fourteen federal agencies and 16 private organizations provided funding data for the report. 

Overall funding for autism research increased by $30 million (7.6%) from 2018 to 2019. From 2019 to 2020, total autism funding decreased by $5.3 million (1.2%). Similar to previous years, federal agencies funded approximately 80% of autism research while private organizations contributed nearly 20% of funding. 

Funding fluctuations, such as the decrease between 2019 and 2020, occur for a number of reasons, including the pattern of project/initiative start and end dates, changes in organization budgets and priorities, changes in government appropriations, and the effects of using certain funding mechanisms. The 2020 decrease also coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected research across many scientific disciplines. Future reports analyzing research funding in the 2021 and 2022 cycles will illuminate variations in funding levels and the overall trajectory of autism research growth in recent years. 

As in previous years, research on the biology of autism continued to be the largest area funded (45% of total funding in 2019 and 2020), followed by: 

Lifespan, services and supports, and screening and diagnosis maintained funding levels or increased from 2019 to 2020. The areas with the most growth from 2019 to 2020 were screening and diagnosis and services and supports.

Detailed federal and private organization project data are available in the Autism Research Database

This report represents the twelfth and thirteenth years of data collected and the ninth comprehensive report of U.S. autism research funding across both federal and private sectors. 

Sherri Alms is the freelance editor of The OARacle, a role she took on in 2007. She has been a freelance writer and editor for more than 20 years.