Jennifer Giarratano, 404-413-0028
Andrew Young School of Policy Studies
ATLANTA – Approximately 60 percent of all basic research in the U.S. and 75 percent of articles published in scientific journals are produced by scientists and engineers working at public universities and medical schools, according to a new book written by Paula Stephan, an economist in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
The United States spends between 0.3 and 0.4 percent of its annual gross domestic product on research and development in public universities and medical schools, which in 2009 represented almost $55 billion, or approximately $170 per person, Stephan writes.
In “How Economics Shapes Science” (Harvard University Press, 2012), Stephan describes research costs and the incentives that produce scientific research in public institutions. She shows how universities, medical schools and their faculty respond to incentives like the doubling of the budget of the National Institutes of Health between 1998 and 2003 and the building spree it created in the early 2000s, when construction and renovation costs for biomedical research facilities at U.S. medical schools accelerated from $348 million annually to $1.1 billion.
Stephan, who was recently named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, brings a keen understanding of the ongoing cost-benefit calculations made by individuals and institutions as they compete for resources and reputation. “How Economics Shapes Science” 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.
“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.
Jan. 4, 2012