Willingness-to-Pay for Science as a Public Good: A Contingent Valuation Experiment
Every year a significant amount of money is invested by governments on large-scale research infrastructures such as particle accelerators, telescopes, robotic space probes, biological data banks, oceanographic vessels, etc. The majority of these projects is funded through general taxation, and hence taxpayers are implicitly called to contribute to scientific discovery. Against the actual tax burden, how much the general public is actually willing to pay for investment in science? This paper explores the attitudes of young science-outsiders (the taxpayers of tomorrow) by the design of a pilot experiment involving a sample of undergraduate students in economics at University of Milan. We were interested in building a replicable survey setting aimed at eliciting the willingness to pay (WTP) for the discovery potential of a basic science project. Our case study is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator worldwide. The experiment takes the form of a Contingent Valuation Referendum-like in depth interview. Both parametric and non-parametric estimators were used to calculate the mean WTP. Our results suggest that the sample mean WTP for the LHC discoveries ranges from EUR 23 to 28 per person annually. This is a relatively high result, several times in excess of the actual average tax-burden for supporting the CERN budget by Italian taxpayers, but can be compared with several previous empirical findings about the WTP for the non-use value of specific cultural and environmental goods. Building on this pilot experiment, we discuss possible future research avenues in order to extend to representative samples of taxpayers the empirical analysis of WTP for scientific discovery.
|Date of creation:||25 Nov 2017|
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