Posted June 10th, 2010
More than five years ago, the then-White House science adviser, John H. Marburger III, asked researchers a seemingly simple question: Given the billions of tax dollars they get each year, why don't they have good data on the value of what they produce?
That question may finally be getting answered.
Sparked by job-tracking requirements in the $787-billion economic-stimulus bill approved last year by Congress, the government's major science-financing agencies have been working with universities to devise a way to bring scientific precision to the explanation of how their expenditures help the national economy.
At the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, which was not one of the seven institutions that tested the data-collection system, the initiative raises hope of creating badly needed new incentives for students, said the institution's president, Jerry M. Hultin.
Research students, including prospective new faculty members, have broad ambitions for applying their research expertise toward solving problems in the commercial marketplace, and they too often feel "boxed in" by current measures of academic success that are tied to traditional pathways, such as journal-publication citations, Mr. Hultin said.
In fact, one startup enterprise that originated from the institute, he said, could be part of the solution. The company, ChubbyBrain, is compiling a directory of private companies that contains detailed information in such areas as their financing sources, mergers and acquisitions, and customers.