How Economics Shapes Science
Harvard University Press, 2012
by Paula E. Stephan
The beauty of science may be pure and eternal, but the practice of science costs money. And scientists, being human, respond to incentives and costs, in money and glory. Choosing a research topic, deciding what papers to write and where to publish them, sticking with a familiar area or going into something new—the payoff may be tenure or a job at a highly ranked university or a prestigious award or a bump in salary. The risk may be not getting any of that.
At a time when science is seen as an engine of economic growth, Paula Stephan brings a keen understanding of the ongoing cost-benefit calculations made by individuals and institutions as they compete for resources and reputation. She shows how universities offload risks by increasing the percentage of non-tenure-track faculty, requiring tenured faculty to pay salaries from outside grants, and staffing labs with foreign workers on temporary visas. With funding tight, investigators pursue safe projects rather than less fundable ones with uncertain but potentially path-breaking outcomes. Career prospects in science are increasingly dismal for the young because of ever-lengthening apprenticeships, scarcity of permanent academic positions, and the difficulty of getting funded.
Vivid, thorough, and bold, How Economics Shapes Science highlights the growing gap between the haves and have-nots—especially the vast imbalance between the biomedical sciences and physics/engineering—and offers a persuasive vision of a more productive, more creative research system that would lead and benefit the world.
Paula Stephan is Professor of Economics at Georgia State University and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research working on SEWP. She has served on the Board on Higher Education and Workforce at the NRC, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Council, and the Social, Behavioral, and Economics Advisory Committee at the NSF.
Book Review from Kent Anderson and “The Scholarly Kitchen” blog:
[Go to Blog]
Interview with Kent Anderson at “The Scholarly Kitchen”: [Go to interview]
Paula Stephan named Science Careers Person of the Year, 2012
[Go to Article]
* SEWP Collaborations*
Sewp is working with Harvard Medical School Catalyst Program
The Harvard Medical School Catalyst is an over $200 million HMS and HMS affiliate project to improve clinical and translational research. From their website: the purpose of Catalyst is to develop "systematic way[s] for investigators from disparate disciplines and institutions to find each other and form teams, to gain open access to tools and technologies, and to obtain seed funding to embark upon new areas of investigation. This demands a systematic effort to remove the barriers and obstacles to cross-institutional collaboration. A catalyst lowers the barriers to reaction, and thus speeds a reaction that would normally have occurred at a much slower rate. Speeding the reduction of human illness is the only function of the Harvard Catalyst."
SEWP is working with the Lee Nadler, the Director of Catalyst and the PI on the founding NIH grants. He has two pilot projects. One combines an "open science" platform to develop new research strategies to combat disease with a novel team-building process to implement these strategies. The "open science" part will, hopefully, generate novel strategies that will be successful where previous strategies have failed because they arise from skill sets and perspectives that are traditionally not utilized. The team-building is novel because of incentives for collaboration across disciplines and institutions.
[For more information at the Catalyst website]
The second project addresses the waste due to duplication in medical science. This pilot catalogues and uploads into a virtual network information about research resources located within research laboratories in nine universities across the U.S. These resources include reagents, tissue samples, mice, lab equipment. The idea here is by making these resources that are available for swapping known, "eagle-i" (as it has been dubbed) will greatly reduce the cost of science, increase research productivity, and increase participation and diversity in science.
[Read Press Release]
Science & Engineering News
The Long-Term U.S. Decline in Global Rankings on University R&D Spending
According to a report of May 2011 by The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation
covering the years 2000-2008, the United States ended up “ranked 22nd out of 30 countries in
government-funded university research and 21st in business-funded university research.” The
researchers suggest that with the long-term decline of several centralized corporate R&D labs,
it is crucial that university institutions pick up the slack for what they regard as lackluster R&D
investment in the USA: [Read Article]
Nevertheless, a survey of the National Science Foundation indicates that during FY 2009 and
FY2010, university R&D spending took a notably upward swing with the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Published in March 2012, the NSF found in its Higher Education
Research and Development (HERD) Survey that “When adjusted for inflation, higher education
R&D rose by 6.0% in FY 2010”: [Read Article ]
With Washington facing Tea Party-inspired demands for government rollback and bipartisan
calls for fiscal austerity, universities will find daunting challenges ahead in trying to build
upon the ARRA surge in R&D spending. The U.S. continues to lead the world in absolute
R&D spending, with $427.2 billion in gross expenditures on R&D (PPP adjusted) during 2011.
Building upon a 22 percent annual rate of growth in R&D spending between 1996 and 2007,
China came in second in 2011 at $174.9 billion, according to Battelle and R&D Magazine.
as Posted by Christopher Shea in the Boston Globe, January 12, 2010
The economics blogger Mike Mandel found that 35 percent of college graduates have a degree beyond the B.A., up from 32.7 percent in 1999. ant to help foster innovation." The growth is at the masters (and professional) level, however: the proportion of workers with Ph.D's is on a slight downward curve, dipping under 4.5 percent in 2007 and still dropping. While the inflation-adusted earnings of workers with bachelor's or masters degrees have increased very slightly since 1999--a rise of one percent or less--the story was quite different for the doctorate. Employees with Ph.D.'s can expect to earn 10 percent less, in real dollars, than they would have a decade ago.
[Read Globe Article]
[Read Mandel Blog]
Federal funding of academic science and engineering (S&E) R&D failed to outpace inflation for the second year in a row.
According to a study by NSF, a 2-year decline during FY2006 and FY2007 in federal funding in constant dollars is unprecedented for this data series, which began in 1972
[Read Full Report]
University of California Post doc Union Wins Official Recognition
After a failed attempts in 2006, the PRO/UAW, has successfully organized the post docs on the 10 University of California (UC) campuses. The move brings an estimated 10% of U.S. post docs into UAW. The union faced no noticeable opposition..
[Read Full Article]
Career Patterns of Foreign Born Scientists and Engineers
Trained and or Working in the U.S.
By Richard Freeman, Paula Stephan and John Trumpbour,
The internationalization of science and engineering has transformed many debates concerning "brain drain" and brought increasing attention to concepts of global "brain circulation." Yet, much of this discussion is often based on insufficient evidence about the actual flows of scientific workers among nations or the composition of the workforce as it relates to origin, both in terms of birth and training. With the support of a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to Georgia State University, a workshop was held November 7, 2007 at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA with the purpose of exploring various approaches for studying career patterns of foreign-born scientists and engineers trained and or working in the U.S. The co-organizers of the workshop were Richard Freeman, Paula Stephan and John Trumpbour.
[Read the full report here]
Recent Articles By Vivek Wadhwa
Real Problem with Outsourcing,"
Vivek Wadhwa, BusinessweekViewpoint,
Nov 7, 2006.
that Engineering Gap,
" Vivek Wadhwa, Businessweek Viewpoint, Dec 13,
the Engineers Are
," Vivek Wadhwa, Gary Gereffi, Ben Rissing, Ryan
Ong. Issues in Science and Technology (NAS) Spring 07, page 73-84
The Future of the Biomedical Sciences
Paula Stephan, SEWP network
member and economist at Georgia State University, spoke about the future
of the biomedical sciences in her talk: "Early Careers for Biomedical
Scientists: Doubling (and Troubling) Outcomes" at Harvard University
on Feb. 27th, 2007. The message: employment opportunities are getting
worse for future biologists a trend that has to be reversed for the future
of the biomedical sciences in the US.
[Talk in PDF format]
Call for Proposals – Initial Access to Nanobank Data
Be One of the First to Tap into the Nanobank!
>>> Find out more here
Does Science Promote Women?
Evidence from Academia 1973-2001
By Donna K. Ginther 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.
Immigration In High-Skill Labor Markets:
the Impact Of Foreign Students On the Earnings Of Doctorates
By George Borjas
The rapid growth in the number of foreign students enrolled in American
universities has transformed the higher education system, particularly
at the graduate level. [full
Improving the Postdoctoral Experience: An Empirical Approach
By Geoff Davis
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...
For all recent articles: [full article list]
Signs America's scientific edge is slipping
For economist Richard Freeman, the "Eureka!" moment came at an academic conference, when a Chinese colleague gave him a chart of the engineering and science doctorates being awarded by China's universities.
from the The Denver Post
America's Pressing Challenge
Science and Engineering Indicators has reported for almost a decade on the
rapid growth in scientific and engineering occupations in the United
States. The 2006 edition now reports that by 2012, U.S. occupations in science and engineering
fields are expected to grow by 1.25 million. That's 26 percent more than exist
today, while a 15 percent increase is expected in all other jobs.
from the Kansas City Infozine