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Agenda -- 2005 Oct 19-20



The Science and Engineering Workforce Project
at the National Bureau of Economic Research

Sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

October 19 th - 20 th, 2005
Richard B. Freeman and Daniel L. Goroff: Organizers

The National Bureau of Economic Research
1050 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA

"Supporting the Best & Brightest in S&E - NSF Graduate Research Fellowships"

     Richard Freeman (Harvard) with Tanwin Chang (NBER) and Hanley Chiang (Harvard)

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) is a highly prestigious award for science and engineering (S&E) graduate students. This paper uses data from 1952 to 2004 on the population of over 200,000 applicants to the GRF to examine the determinants of the number and characteristics of applicants and the characteristics of awardees. In the early years of the program, GRF awards went largely to physical science and mathematics students and disproportionately to white men, but as the composition of S&E students has changed, larger shares have gone to biological sciences, social sciences, and engineering, and to women and minorities. The absolute number of awards has varied over time, with no trend. Because the number of new S&E college graduates has risen, the result is a sharp decline in the number of awards per S&E bachelor’s graduate. In the 2000s approximately 1/3rd as many NSF Fellowships were granted per S&E baccalaureate than in the 1950s-1970s. The dollar value of the awards relative to the earnings of college graduates has also varied greatly over time. Our analysis of the variation in the number and value of awards and of the characteristics of applicants and awardees finds that:

  • 1. The primary determinant of winning a GRF are academic skills, which greatly impact panel ratings of applicants. Consistent with efforts to increase S&E diversity, women and minorities have higher changes of winning an award than white men with similar attributes.
  • 2. The size of the applicant pool varies with the relative value of the stipend, the number of S&E bachelor’s graduates, and the lagged number of awards per graduate. We estimate that for every 10% increase in the stipend value, the number of applications goes up by 8 to 10 percent.
  • 3. The average measured skill of awardees falls when the number of awards are increased and rises with the value of fellowships.
  • 4. The supply of applicants contains enough qualified candidates to allow for a sizeable increase in the number of awards without greatly reducing measured skills.
  • 5. The supply of highly skilled applicants is sufficiently responsive to the value of awards that increases in the value of stipends could attract some potentially outstanding science and engineering students who would otherwise choose other careers.


"Immigration In High-Skill Labor Markets: The Impact Of Foreign Students On The Earnings Of Doctorates"

     George Borjas (Harvard)

The rapid growth in the number of foreign students enrolled in American universities has transformed the higher education system, particularly at the graduate level. Many of these newly minted doctorates remain in the United States after receiving their doctoral degrees, so that the foreign student influx can have a significant impact in the labor market for high-skill workers. Using data drawn from the Survey of Earned Doctorates and the Survey of Doctoral Recipients, the study shows that a foreign student influx into a particular doctoral field at a particular time had a significant and adverse effect on the earnings of doctorates in that field who graduated at roughly the same time. A 10 percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of doctorates lowers the wage of competing workers by about 3 to 4 percent. About half of this adverse wage effect can be attributed to the increased prevalence of low-pay postdoctoral appointments in fields that have softer labor market conditions because of large-scale immigration.


"International Knowledge Flows: Evidence from an Inventor-Firm Matched Data Set"

     Sangjoon Lee (Alfred) with Jinyoung Kim (SUNY at Buffalo) and Gerald Marschke (SUNY at Albany)

We describe the construction of a panel data set from the U.S. patent data that contains measures of inventors’ life-cycle R&D productivity—patents and patent citations. We match the data set to information on the U.S. pharmaceutical and semiconductor firms for whom they work. In this paper we use these data to examine the role of research personnel as a pathway for the diffusion of ideas from foreign countries to U.S. innovators. In particular, we find in recent years an increase in the extent that U.S. innovating firms collaborate with or employ researchers with foreign experience. This increase appears to work primarily through an increase in U.S. firms’ employment of foreign-residing researchers; the fraction of research-active U.S. residents with foreign research experience appears to be falling, suggesting that U.S. pharmaceutical and semiconductor firms are increasingly locating operations in foreign countries to employ such researchers, as opposed to such researchers immigrating to the U.S. to work. In addition, we investigate which U.S. firms conducting R&D build upon innovations originating abroad. We find that employing or collaborating with researchers who have research experience abroad seems to facilitate the use of output of non-U.S. R&D. We also find that in the semiconductor industry smaller and older firms, and in the pharmaceutical industry, younger firms are more likely to access foreign R&D output.


"Educational Mismatch among Ph.D.s: Determinants and Consequences"

     Keith Bender (U. Of Wisconsin - Milwaukee) with John Heywood (U. of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)

Using the Survey of Doctoral Recipients, the magnitude and consequences of job mismatch are estimated for Ph.D.s in science. Approximately one-sixth of academics and nearly one-half of nonacademics report some degree of mismatch. The influence of job mismatch is estimated for three job outcomes: earnings, job satisfaction and turnover. Surprisingly large and robust influences emerge. Mismatch is associated with substantially lower earnings, lower job satisfaction and a higher rate of turnover. These results persist across a variety of specifications and hold for both academics and nonacademics. Estimates of the determinants of mismatch indicate that older workers and those in rapidly changing disciplines are more likely to be mismatched and there is a suggestion that women are more likely to be mismatched.


"Capturing Knowledge: The Location Decision of New PhDs Working in Industry

    Paula Stephan (Georgia State) with AlbertSumell (Youngstown State) and James Adams (RPI)

The placement of new PhDs with firms provides a means by which knowledge is transferred from the university. This means of knowledge transfer is especially important in facilitating the movement of tacit knowledge. Despite the role that new PhDs play in this university-industry interface, we know very little about industrial placements. One dimension of ignorance involves the extent to which students stay in close geographic proximity to where they received training. This paper examines factors that influence the probability that a newly-trained PhD will remain "local" or stay in-state. Specifically, we measure how various individual, institutional and geographic attributes affect the probability that new PhDs who choose to work in industry stay in the metropolitan area or state where they were trained.

Our study focuses on PhDs who received their degree in one of ten fields of science and engineering during the period 1997-1999. Data for the study come from the Survey of Earned Doctorates, administered by Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation. We find that state and local areas capture knowledge embodied in newly minted PhDs headed to industry, but not at an overwhelming rate. Certain states and metropolitan areas have an especially high attrition rate. We also find that in certain instances attrition is higher from top-rated PhD programs than from lower-rated programs and higher for those supported on fellowships, suggesting that local areas are less able to retain the best. Our results also suggest that retention is related to personal characteristics such as level of debt, previous work experience and visa status. Retention is also related to the local technological infrastructure.


"Improving the Postdoctoral Experience: An Empirical Approach"

    Geoff Davis (Sigma-Xi)

Recent reports have called for changes to the training of postdoctoral scientists and engineers. We tested the hypothesis that the practices advocated make a measurable difference in the experiences and productivity of postdoctoral researchers using data from a large-scale survey. We found that structured oversight and professional development opportunities are associated with a broad range of positive outcomes; compensation-related measures, in contrast, have few quantifiable benefits. Postdocs who wrote research/career plans at the start of their appointments were 23% more productive than those did not. Teaching experiences, exposure to non-academic careers, and training in proposal writing and project management were also associated with multiple positive outcomes.


"Instruments of Commerce and Knowledge: Probe Microscopy, 1980-2000"

    Cyrus Mody (Chemical Heritage Foundation)

The voices of editorialists and analysts excoriating or praising commercialization of products of higher education has recently grown very loud. Yet this debate too often proceeds at an abstract level divorced from the small-scale settings where commercialization actually occurs. The questions asked are too stark, and the dangers and benefits of academic entrepreneurialism are amplified beyond recognition. As Steven Shapin notes in a recent survey, proponents' and nay-sayers' limited historical horizons lead to, among other things, ludicrous over-praising of incentives to patent academic research and over-dire warnings about the corporate university. The few historical studies that could contribute to this debate, while praiseworthy, have concentrated too narrowly on a handful of particularly entrepreneurial universities (Stanford and MIT), disciplines/industries (microelectronics and biotechnology), and regions (Silicon Valley and Route 128 near Boston).

Yet these studies neglect important aspects of participants' experience of corporate-academic cooperation. Most researchers participate in networks that are geographically dispersed and that include colleagues in both academia and industry and from a variety of disciplines. To understand the commercialization of academic knowledge, we need a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary, multi-regional unit of analysis - what I will call an "instrumental community." By this I mean the porous group of people commonly oriented to building, developing, using, selling, and popularizing a particular technology of measurement. Such communities are "instrumental" primarily in focusing on new research tools - microscopes, fruit flies, tobacco mosaic virus, lab rats, cathode ray tubes, etc. Because such communities usually include academic and commercial participants, though, they will often seek ways to morph those tools into industrially-relevant devices. Thus, such communities are also "instrumental" in focusing on new ways of doing or making things.


"Internationalization of U.S. Doctorate Education"

    John Bound (U. of Michigan), Sarah Turner (U. of Virginia), and Patrich Walsh (U. of Michigan)

The representation of a large number of students born outside the United States among the ranks of doctorate recipients from U.S. universities is one of the most significant transformations in U.S. graduate education and the international market for highly-trained workers in science and engineering in the last quarter century. Students from outside the U.S. accounted for 51% of PhD recipients in science and engineering fields in 2003, up from 27% in 1973. In the physical sciences, engineering and economics the representation of foreign students among PhD recipients is yet more striking; among doctorate recipients in 2003, those from outside the U.S. accounted for 50% of degrees in the physical sciences, 67% in engineering and 68% in economics. Our analysis highlights the important role of changes in demand among foreign born in explaining the growth and distribution of doctorates awarded in science and engineering. Expansion in undergraduate degree receipt in many countries has a direct effect on the demand for advanced training in the U.S. Changes in the supply side of the U.S. graduate education market may also differentially affect the representation of foreign students in U.S. universities. Supply shocks such as increases in federal support for the sciences will have relatively large effects on the representation in the U.S. of doctorate students from countries where demand is relatively elastic. Understanding the determinants – and consequences – of changes over time in the representation of foreign born students among doctorate recipients from U.S. universities informs the design of policies affecting the science and engineering workforce.


"Women and Underrepresented Minorities in the IT Workforce"

    Sharon Levin (U. of Missouri) and Paula Stephan

This study examines the composition of the information technology (IT) workforce focusing on recruitment and retention and how they differ by gender and minority status. Data are from SESTAT, the largest nationally representative sample of college-educated scientists and engineers living in the United States. The data indicate that only about one in three individuals in the IT workforce in 1999 actually had a formal degree in an IT discipline; thus recruitment from non-IT disciplines plays an important role in determining the size of the IT workforce. Similarly, retention, especially for women and underrepresented minorities, is very important. Indeed, the 1999 IT workforce would have been larger and even more balanced in terms of gender and minority status if women and underrepresented minorities had similar retention rates as their white male counterparts. Furthermore, women and underrepresented minorities have differential recruitment and retention patterns than do men and whites. These differences persist even after controlling for variables such as family structure, age, citizenship status and field of training, gender and race/ethnicity.


"Does Science Promote Women? Evidence from Academia 1973-2001"

    Donna Ginther (U. of Kansas) and Shulamit Kahn

Many studies have shown that women are under-represented in tenured ranks in the sciences. We evaluate whether gender differences in the likelihood of obtaining a tenure track job, promotion to tenure, and promotion to full professor explain these facts using the 1973-2001 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. We find that women are less likely to take tenure track positions in science, but the gender gap is entirely explained by fertility decisions. We find that in science overall, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor after controlling for demographic, family, employer and productivity covariates and that in many cases, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor even without controlling for covariates. However, family characteristics have different impacts on women’s and men’s promotion probabilities.


"Technological Change and Gender Wage Differentials"

    Simona Lup Tick (U. of Mississippi) Ronald Oaxaca (U. of Arizona)

This paper investigates the impact of non-neutral technological change on the recent narrowing of the gender wage di¤erentials. The relation between technological change and relative wages of female and male workers is modeled through a constant elasticity of substitution production function that incorpo- rates male and female labor inputs by occupation in each industry, a non-labor input and a productivity parameter function that captures non-neutral techno- logical change. Data from 1979 to 2001 on employment and wages by industry and occupation come from the Current Population Survey. Using non-linear two stage least squares with cross-equation restrictions, the estimated results provide evidence that non-neutral technological change partially explains the documented narrowing of the gender wage gap during the 1980s and 1990s, even after controlling for unexplained di¤erences in gender relative wages. Speci.- cally, changes in non-neutral technological change explain between 5 % and 9 % of the overall increase of women.s wages relative to men.s in the sample. The strongest e¤ect is found for the highest pay occupation level, while the smallest e¤ect is found for the lower pay occupations. Finally, this paper brings evidence that ignoring the unexplained component of the gender wage di¤erentials could result in a biased estimation of the e¤ect on non-neutral technological change on the gender wage gap.


"Emergence of Computational Science at Argonne National Labs"

    Charles Yood (Michigan State U.)

The evolution of the computing activities at Argonne reflects broader issues concerning technology, identity, professionalization, and the social organization of science. While Argonne's development of digital computer technology is a significant part of this story, I focus on the AMD's efforts to integrate computers - and their attendant personnel - into the scientific process. In particular, the pursuit of "computational science" required that applied mathematicians be incorporated in all stages of science and engineering practice -- from problem formulation to the definition of what constituted a solution. Arguments for such a collaborative structure drew on Cold War rhetoric, debates within the mathematical profession, and issues surrounding the increasing quantification of the sciences. Simultaneously, applied mathematicians sought to define a new research agenda that balanced their duties to provide mathematical expertise to other scientists with their desires to conduct their own research.


"The Growing Allocative Inefficiency of the U.S. Higher Education Sector"

    James Adams (RPI) and J. Roger Clemmons(University of Florida)

In this paper we present new evidence on research and teaching productivity in universities. The findings are based on a panel that covers 1981-1999 and 102 top U.S. schools. Faculty size grows at 0.6 percent per year compared with growth of 4.9 percent in the industrial science and engineering workforce. Measured by papers and citations per researcher, productivity grows at 1.4-6.7 percent per year and productivity and its rate of growth are higher in private than public universities. Measured by baccalaureate and graduate degrees per teacher, teaching productivity grows at 0.8-1.1 percent per year and growth is faster in public than private universities. A decomposition analysis shows that productivity growth within universities exceeds overall growth. This is because research shares grow more rapidly in universities whose productivity grows less rapidly. Likewise the research share of public universities increases, even though productivity grows less rapidly in public universities. Together these findings imply that allocative efficiency of U.S. higher education declined during the late 20th century. Regression analysis of individual universities finds that R&D stock, endowment, and post-doctoral students increase research productivity, that the share of non-federal R&D reduces it, and that research is subject to decreasing returns. Since the non-federal share grows and is higher in public universities, this could account for some of the rising allocative inefficiency. Since we find evidence for decreasing returns in research, this suggests limits on research scale that restrict the ability of more efficient institutions to expand.