recent research

Recent Research: Identifying peer states for technology-based economic development

While competition between states over business incentives and headquarters attraction is often derided, new research published in the Journal of Technology in Society suggests that competition in technology-based economic development is hardly a zero-sum game. In Persistent peers and the rhetoric of state economic competition, author David Schwarzkopf from Bentley University uses cluster analysis to track state progress across 53 TBED measures published by the NSF through its Science & Engineering Indicators series. Over a 12-year study period, Schwarzkopf finds that all 50 states improved on more than half of the variables used, with more than 60 percent of the states moving in the same direction on 80 percent of the measures. He argues that although states clearly compete, more focus is needed on how each state is making progress while also working to improve on their deficiencies.   

Recent Research – four in brief

Several academic papers have been released recently focused on topics of importance for influencing the design and delivery of national and regional innovation policies. In this week’s issue of the SSTI Weekly Digest, we’ve included brief summaries of the findings of four of them related to timely news topics – the relationship of trade and manufacturing employments, the likely longer term economic impact of the 2017 corporate tax cuts, ties between R&D and trade,  and  the relationship of patents to employee wages.

Cohorts and other strategies to help individuals from underrepresented groups graduate with STEM degrees

While diversity plays a critical role in both improving the quality and increasing the rate of innovation, women and several minority groups remain underrepresented in STEM fields. Several studies find that improving the retention rate of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM at the college level can have significant impacts on improving the diversity and representativeness of the STEM workforce. For women and other underrepresented groups, the college experience can create unique roadblocks and barriers that ultimately cause them to switch majors or even leave college. Several recent studies have examined strategies to improve the retention rate of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM degrees at institution of higher education. The strategies range from pre-college STEM academies to establishing cohorts of underrepresented students.

Recent Research: Close look at manufacturing helps shape policy and practice

Last week, SSTI highlighted the recently released issue of the Economic Development Quarterly where three pieces stand out for their relevance to practitioners and policymakers. This article takes a look at how academic research can inform three common strategies for strengthening the manufacturing sector and encouraging regional economic development: targeting industry clusters, leveraging manufacturing extension services, and promoting workforce development.

Accelerators help improve efficiency of startup capital

Over the last decade, accelerators have spread from a Silicon Valley phenomenon to communities across the country. Questions, however, remain on their impact on startups and whether they aid in creating a strong startup ecosystem. In How Do Accelerators Impact High-Technology Ventures?, Sandy Yu from UC-Berkeley found that the accelerator process helps resolve uncertainty around company quality sooner than what is experienced by non-accelerator companies. Uncertainty regarding the startup’s idea is resolved quicker due in part to the feedback effects of the accelerator process.

Recent Research: Auditing NIH-funded studies would improve reproducibility of scientific research

Approximately 30.2 percent of NIH-funded research studies produce false positive results that make those studies not replicable by other researchers, according to a recent study from researchers at Queensland University of Technology (AU). The authors of the study contend that the reproducibility crisis is driven by “publish or perish” incentives to increase the quantity of their papers at the cost of quality. They contend this publish or perish mentality is most prevalent at large, established “parent” labs (those with 50 or more NIH-funded papers). In these labs, established researchers, young researchers, and students are under pressure to publish their work leading to methodological and other process mistakes that create false positives and reduce reproducibility.

Recent Research: Federal R&D boosts local economic development

The boost in federal R&D funds as a result of the 2009 stimulus package had a significant impact on local economic development, according to a new working paper from researchers at the University of Michigan. In “Local Fiscal Multiplier on R&D and Science Spending: Evidence from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), authors Yulia Chhabra, Margaret Levenstein, and Jason Owen-Smith look at changes in county-level employment in response to increased federal spending on R&D as a result of ARRA. The authors estimate causal effects of the ARRA R&D funding on local economic development, and find that, all else equal, every $1 million in new R&D spending due to the stimulus in a county led to 27 new jobs, with 25 of those being in the private sector. The authors estimate that the cost per each job-year was about $15,000, which is less than the reported costs of other types of federal stimulus programs.

Regardless of their jobs, scientists and engineers increase employers’ productivity

The conclusion from the working paper, The Effects of Scientists and Engineers on Productivity and Earnings at the Establishment Where They Work, by Erling Barth, James C. Davis, Richard B. Freeman, and Andrew J. Wang, is pretty clear for manufacturers and policy advocates for improving U.S. manufacturing: firms should hire as many scientists and engineers as possible.  The research finds, Morgan Foy explains in an NBER Digest article, that occupational statistics reveal approximately 80 percent of people trained as scientists and engineers do not work in R&D jobs.  Filling a company’s payroll with as many of these people, regardless of their position, seems to pay off. The authors’ research concluded a 10 percent increase in the proportion of scientist and engineer employment within a manufacturing establishment was associated with a 4 percent increase in total factor productivity for the firm.

Recent Research: Meaningful results from R&D becoming more costly

Congress so far has ignored administration budget requests that call for reducing U.S. investment in research and development.  Science and innovation advocates interpret the legislative branch’s decision as good for many reasons. Authors Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen, and Michael Webb add another reason in their NBER working paper Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find? They find U.S. productivity, measured as cost per meaningful innovation across a number of key sectors, is decreasing at an average rate of 5.3 percent annually. Prevailing economic growth projections may be optimistic, they conclude, because the projections do not incorporate ever-increasing prices for R&D outcomes.

Recent Research: industry and labor concentration findings challenge current thoughts on policy solutions

Several recent articles covered in the National Bureau of Economic Researchers (NBER) Digest suggest that current understanding of policies surrounding wages, clusters and labor concentration may warrant revisiting. In one piece of academic research, a historical argument of shared productivity gains with employees is challenged, while another article shows a loss of bargaining power for employees in concentrated labor markets.


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