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Measuring Science: An Exploration

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  • James Adams
  • Zvi Griliches

Abstract

This paper examines available U.S. data on academic R&D expenditures and the number of papers published and the number of citations to these papers as possible measures of `output' of this enterprise. We look at these numbers for science and engineering as a whole, for 5 selected major fields, and at the individual university-field level. The published data in Science and Engineering Indicators imply sharply diminishing returns to academic R&D using published papers as a 'output' measure. These data are problematic. Using a newer set of data on papers and citations, based on an `expanding' set changes the picture drastically, eliminating seemingly diminishing returns but raising the question of why input prices of academic R&D are rising so much faster than either the GDP deflator or the implicit R&D deflator in industry. A production function analysis of such data indicates significant diminishing returns to `own' R&D, with the R&D coefficients hovering around 0.5 for estimates with paper numbers as the dependent variable and around 0.6 if total citations are used. When we substitute scientists and engineers in place of R&D as the right hand side variables, the coefficient on papers rises from 0.5 to 0.8, and the coefficient on citations rises from 0.6 to 0.9, indicating systematic measurement problems with R&D as the sole input into the production of scientific output. But allowing for individual university-field effects drives these numbers down below unity. Since in the aggregate both paper numbers and citations are growing as fast or faster than R&D, this can be seen as leaving a major, yet unmeasured role, for the contribution of spill- overs from other fields, other universities, and other countries.

Suggested Citation

  • James Adams & Zvi Griliches, 1996. "Measuring Science: An Exploration," NBER Working Papers 5478, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5478
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard Nelson, 1962. "The Link Between Science and Invention: The Case of the Transistor," NBER Chapters,in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 549-584 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Saul Lach & Mark Schankerman, 2008. "Incentives and invention in universities," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(2), pages 403-433.
    2. Hinloopen, Jeroen & Smrkolj, Grega & Wagener, Florian, 2013. "From mind to market: A global, dynamic analysis of R&D," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 2729-2754.
    3. Carayol, Nicolas & Matt, Mireille, 2006. "Individual and collective determinants of academic scientists' productivity," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 55-72, March.
    4. Nathan Berg, 2002. "Coping with journal-price inflation: leading policy proposals and the quality-spectrum," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 4(14), pages 1-7.
    5. Paul Heisey & Sarah Adelman, 2011. "Research expenditures, technology transfer activity, and university licensing revenue," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 36(1), pages 38-60, February.
    6. Yann Kossi & Jean-Yves Lesueur & Mareva Sabatier, 2016. "Publish or teach? The role of the scientific environment on academics’ multitasking," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(3), pages 487-506.
    7. Zhang, Daqun & Banker, Rajiv D. & Li, Xiaoxuan & Liu, Wenbin, 2011. "Performance impact of research policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 875-885, July.
    8. Maryann P. Feldman & Frank R. Lichtenberg, 1998. "The Impact and Organization of Publicly-Funded Research and development in the European Community," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 49-50, pages 199-222.
    9. repec:eee:ijrema:v:31:y:2014:i:1:p:65-77 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Carayol, Nicolas & Matt, Mireille, 2004. "Does research organization influence academic production?: Laboratory level evidence from a large European university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1081-1102, October.
    11. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:4:y:2002:i:14:p:1-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:spr:scient:v:86:y:2011:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-010-0298-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:spr:scient:v:74:y:2008:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-008-0212-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Arthur Diamond, 2004. "Zvi Griliches's contributions to the economics of technology and growth," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(4), pages 365-397.
    15. Stefano Breschi & Francesco Lissoni & Fabio Montobbio, 2006. "University patenting and scientific productivity. A quantitative study of Italian academic inventors," KITeS Working Papers 189, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Nov 2006.
    16. Ashish Arora & Alfonso Gambardella, 1997. "Impact of NSF support for basic research in economics," Others 9702001, EconWPA.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General

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