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Flexibility in the selection of patent counts: Implications for p-hacking and evidence-based policymaking

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  • Bruns, Stephan B.
  • Kalthaus, Martin

Abstract

This study analyzes how researchers’ degrees of freedom in selecting patent counts influence econometrically estimated policy effects. Using the evaluation of solar energy policies as an example, we identify 51 strategies to select solar patents from the literature resulting in 306 different solar patent counts, considering six common quality levels of patents. We replicate two leading studies in this literature and re-estimate their econometric models using all of these patent counts. Our results demonstrate severe uncertainty regarding sizes and even signs of key policy effects, opening up the potential for p-hacking and posing a fundamental challenge for evidence-based policymaking. We recommend that more emphasis should be devoted to patent selection procedures, including careful sensitivity analysis regarding key assumptions, such as search strategy and patent quality level. More research is needed to develop common quality standards in working with patent data.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruns, Stephan B. & Kalthaus, Martin, 2020. "Flexibility in the selection of patent counts: Implications for p-hacking and evidence-based policymaking," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(1).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:49:y:2020:i:1:s0048733319301969
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2019.103877
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Kalthaus, 2017. "Identifying technological sub-trajectories in photovoltaic patents," Jena Economic Research Papers 2017-010, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    2. David Popp, 2019. "Environmental Policy and Innovation: A Decade of Research," NBER Working Papers 25631, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David Popp, 2019. "Environmental policy and innovation: a decade of research," CESifo Working Paper Series 7544, CESifo.
    4. Ebersberger, Bernd & Galia, Fabrice & Laursen, Keld & Salter, Ammon, 2021. "Inbound Open Innovation and Innovation Performance: A Robustness Study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(7).
    5. Luigi Aldieri & Jonas Grafström & Concetto Paolo Vinci, 2021. "The Effect of Marshallian and Jacobian Knowledge Spillovers on Jobs in the Solar, Wind and Energy Efficiency Sector," Energies, MDPI, vol. 14(14), pages 1-16, July.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Patent data; Sensitivity analysis; p-hacking; Replication; Power; Solar energy technologies;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C18 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Methodolical Issues: General
    • C40 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - General
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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