Results of Federal Investment in R&D
(Science and Technology)
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Grenada (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Julia Lane, New York University; American Institutes for Research
Panel Chairs: Julia Lane, New York University; American Institutes for Research
Discussants: Anna Goldstein, Harvard Univesity and Kaye Husbands Fealing, Georgia Institute of Technology
Investments in R&D have become an important policy lever for stimulating regional and national economic growth, and competitiveness agendas routinely institute policies to support research. In the United States alone, R&D expenditures account for more than $150 billion a year. European nations have agreed to a target for R&D investment of at least 3% of GDP. Yet investments at this scale beg obvious questions – why 3% of GDP rather than 2.9% or 3.1%? Why is the public sector involved? What is the evidence, beyond anecdotes, that investments in science lead to innovation? In sum, what are the returns to investment in research? Answering these questions has become an important policy issue in its own right; and the way in which the answers are measured is equally important – what you measure is what you get.
These are not academic questions. House Committees are asking hard questions of science funders – going so far as to examine individual NSF research grants and threatening to suspend funding for Social, Behavoral and Economic Sciences. And a January 2015 oped in Politico magazine by Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Lamar Smith pointed out “to remain a world leader, the United States must ensure that our investments are funding not just any science but the best science.”1
Evidence based answers about what is the “best” have been difficult to find. It has been rare to see engagement between policy makers and researchers. Outputs are manifold and the processes are complex. Appropriate data exist in multiple places and in a wide variety of formats.
However, a new focus on the Science of Science Policy initiated by both the National Science Foundation and a former Presidential Science Advisor has resulted in more engagement between policymakers and researchers, as well as a new focus on addressing the empirical challenges in a substantive way. This panel examines how to answer important questions that affect national competitiveness. It features researchers studying different aspects of research investments - technology investment, funding in health research and federal research more broadly. It also features a practitioner – the deputy executive director of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Panelists will describe different analytical and empirical frameworks for examining the effects of different R&D strategies – ranging from the effect of manufacturing policy on offshoring and the competitivieness of US firms, the feasibility and desirability of targeting public R&D investments in health, the actual approach used by a committee of domain scientists assessing nanotechnology investments, and a more wide ranging data initiative. In each case, the panelists will discuss the consequences for policy. They will also describe new types of data becoming available for the policy community and how they are being used in practice.