Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Serendipity

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 2:25 PM
Grenada (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Bhaven N. Sampat, NBER and Ohid Yaqub, University of Sussex
Serendipity, the idea that research in one area often leads to advances in another, has been a central idea in the economics of innovation and science and technology policy, particularly in debates about the feasibility and desirability of targeting public R&D investments. 

This paper starts from the idea that serendipity is a hypothesis, not a fact. In it, I provide a preliminary report on a study of serendipity in research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). I examine the serendipity hypothesis as it has typically been articulated debates about NIH funding: the claim that progress against specific diseases often results from unplanned research, or unexpectedly from research oriented towards different diseases. To do so, I compare the disease foci of NIH grants to those of the publications and drugs that result.

Full Paper: