Geraldine Dawson writes at Archives of General Psychiatry:
This issue of the journal features 3 articles on autism.1- 3 A decade ago, the journal published about the same number of autism articles per year. This reflects a broad expansion in the number and diversity of research publications on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A recent analysis conducted by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee4 reveals that ASD publication growth matched broader publication growth until the late 1990s. A dramatic increase in the growth of ASD-related publications began in 2000 and has continued, outpacing publications on similar health-related topics. Most publications focus on biology; in fact, 2 of the 3 articles on autism published in this issue1- 2 explore the neural basis of autism. The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee analysis found that publications on treatments and risk factors tie for the second most frequent type of publication.
To what can we attribute this explosion of research on autism? As noted in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee report, the Children’s Health Act was passed in 2000, calling for increased research funding as well as establishment of autism centers of excellence and improved surveillance. At that time, the National Institutes of Health devoted about $50 million to autism research. In 2006, the Combating Autism Act called for continued autism research funding. Around that time, the Simons Foundation launched its autism research initiative, and Autism Speaks began to provide about $25 million in annual autism research funding. By 2010, federal funding for autism research reached approximately $334 million and private foundation funding exceeded $74 million.
The upsurge of research parallels a dramatic increase in autism prevalence during the same period. In the past 6 years alone, the prevalence of ASD has increased 78%5 and the estimated annual cost of autism has more than tripled.6 Although we have witnessed a significant infusion of autism research funding, the 78% increase in ASD prevalence has been met by only a 43% increase in federal funding. In other words, the per capita autism federal research funding has decreased from an estimated $62 per person in 2007 to $47.50 per person with ASD today. Thus, we continue to have a great need for more research funding, especially for neglected areas such as research on adults and treatment.
1. Ecker C, Ginestet C, Feng Y, Johnston P, Lombardo MV, Lai M-C, Suckling J, Palaniyappan L, Daly E, Murphy CM, Williams SC, Bullmore ET, Baron-Cohen S, Brammer M, Murphy DGM; MRC AIMS Consortium. Brain surface anatomy inadults with autism: the relationship between surface area, cortical thickness, and autistic symptoms [published online November 26, 2012]. Arch Gen Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.265.Here is a post on the increase in studies.
2. Suzuki K, Sugihara G, Ouchi Y, Nakamura K, Futatsubashi M, Takebayashi K, Yoshihara Y, Omata K, Matsumoto K, Tsuchiya KJ, Iwata Y, Tsujii M, Sugiyama T,Mori N. Microglial activation in young adults with autism spectrum disorder [published online November 26, 2012]. Arch Gen Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.272.
3. Volk HE, Lurmann F, Penfold B, Hertz-Picciotto I, McConnell R. Traffic-related air pollution, particulate matter, and autism [published online November 26, 2012]. Arch Gen Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.266.
4. Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, US Department of Health & Human Services. IACC/OARC autism spectrum disorder publications analysis: the global landscape of autism research, July 2012. http://iacc.hhs.gov/publications-analysis/july2012/index.shtml. Accessed September 2, 2012.
5. Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2008 Principal Investigators; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders: Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 sites, United States, 2008. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2012;61(3):1-19.
6. Knapp M, Mandell D, Buescher A, Cidav Z. Autism: economic impact and implications. Paper presented at: 2012 Autism Summit, Investing in Our Future: The Economic Costs of Autism; March 31, 2012; Hong Kong, China.
See another post, however, about the way in which IACC classified treatment studies.