Panel: A Dollar Well Spent: Higher Education Research Finance
(Innovations in Science and Technology)

Friday, November 9, 2018: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Coolidge - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Maryann Feldman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Discussants:  Donna Ginther, University of Kansas

Funding for the Future: The Impact of Federal Funding on Early-Career Research Productivity
Alexandra E. Graddy-Reed, University of Southern California and Lauren Lanahan, University of Oregon

The Snowball Effect of Federal Research Funding
Scott Langford and Maryann Feldman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Is Bigger Better? Investigating Economies of Scale in Academic Chemistry
Joshua L. Rosenbloom, Iowa State University and Donna Ginther, University of Kansas

Federal Indirect Cost Recovery Policies and Academic Research
Bhaven N. Sampat, National Bureau of Economic Research

The higher education research enterprise has emerged as a major societal force, with many questions regarding the flow of resources, reporting and administrative requirements, and resulting effects on productivity. Several specific questions have been raised. How are resources provided by the federal government allocated within the scientific enterprise? Does federal research support function as a compliment or substitute to other sources? How productive are scientists with the resources available to them? Although initial inquiries have begun to investigate these questions, much remains to be learned.

The federal government expends vast resources each year to support academic research. Approximately one-third of these resources are spent on indirect cost payments to universities and other grant recipients. These costs are intended to support infrastructure, utilities, and administration. While seemingly innocuous, these payments have been the subject of great controversy. Some institutions claim the payments are too low, thus institutions lose money on many grants, while scientists claim the payments are too high, thus reducing their capacity to conduct research. Here, Sampat investigates the factors affecting indirect cost rates, as well as the effects of indirect cost rates on university behaviors and the returns to federal R&D spending. 

One key question is whether federal research support serves as a compliment or substitute to non-federal research support. If the relationship is complimentary, then federal support serves as a spark to further investment, however if they serve as substitutes, federal research support may be crowding out non-federal support. Initial investigations indicate that in general, non-federal research support serves as a compliment to federal research support. Whereas these investigations were conducted at the institution level, here, Langford and Feldman conduct analyses at the investigator level. This allows for more detailed questions to be answered, such as how the relationship between federal and non-federal sources changes over the course of an investigators career.

Another key question is how effective investigators are in transforming their financial resources into knowledge. Here this is examined at two levels, the graduate level and the independent investigator level. In prior work, Graddy-Reed, Lanahan and Ross examined the graduate level by showing that receipt of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship had little effect on productivity within the life sciences, an observation driven by a near zero effect on female students. Here, Graddy-Reed and Lanahan extend this work to all other major scientific divisions, and examine the effects of gender and race. In prior work, Rosenbloom and Ginther examined U.S. chemistry department funding, measured funding volatility and demonstrated a positive correlation between multiple institutional research capacity measures and future funding. Here, Rosenbloom and Ginther measure productivity as a function of resources at the independent investigator level, providing answers to the question of whether scientific research is subject to economies of scale.

See more of: Innovations in Science and Technology
See more of: Panel