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As Science Evolves, How Can Science Policy?

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  • Benjamin Jones

Abstract

Getting science policy right is a core objective of government that bears on scientific advance, economic growth, health, and longevity. Yet the process of science is changing. As science advances and knowledge accumulates, ensuing generations of innovators spend longer in training and become more narrowly expert, shifting key innovations (i) later in the life cycle and (ii) from solo researchers toward teams. This paper summarizes the evidence that science has evolved - and continues to evolve - on both dimensions. The paper then considers science policy. The ongoing shift away from younger scholars and toward teamwork raises serious policy challenges. Central issues involve (a) maintaining incentives for entry into scientific careers as the training phase extends, (b) ensuring effective evaluation of ideas (including decisions on patent rights and research grants) as evaluator expertise narrows, and (c) providing appropriate effort incentives as scientists increasingly work in teams. Institutions such as government grant agencies, the patent office, the science education system, and the Nobel Prize come under a unified focus in this paper. In all cases, the question is how these institutions can change. As science evolves, science policy may become increasingly misaligned with science itself - unless science policy evolves in tandem.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Jones, 2010. "As Science Evolves, How Can Science Policy?," NBER Working Papers 16002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Benjamin F. Jones, 2009. "The Burden of Knowledge and the "Death of the Renaissance Man": Is Innovation Getting Harder?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 283-317.
    2. Psacharopoulos, George, 1994. "Returns to investment in education: A global update," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 1325-1343, September.
    3. Scott Stern, 2004. "Do Scientists Pay to Be Scientists?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(6), pages 835-853, June.
    4. Jacob Mincer, 1958. "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 281-281.
    5. Benjamin F. Jones, 2010. "Age and Great Invention," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 1-14, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Dubois & Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean-Marc Schlenker, 2014. "Productivity and mobility in academic research: evidence from mathematicians," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 98(3), pages 1669-1701, March.
    2. Matthias Krapf, 2015. "Age and complementarity in scientific collaboration," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 751-781, September.
    3. Jensen, Scott & Liu, Xiaozhong & Yu, Yingying & Milojevic, Staša, 2016. "Generation of topic evolution trees from heterogeneous bibliographic networks," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 606-621.
    4. Gnidchenko, Andrey, 2010. "Defragmentation of Economic Growth with a Focus on Diversification: Evidence from Russian Economy," MPRA Paper 27113, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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