Governance Lab Ideas Lunch w/ Julia Lane: Measuring the Results of Public Investment in R&D Using Big Data

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Using New Sources of Data to Describe the Results of Research Investments

Investments in R&D have become an important policy lever for stimulating regional and national economic growth; competitiveness agendas routinely institute policies to support research. In the United States alone, R&D expenditures account for more than $150 billion a year and European nations have agreed to a target for R&D investment of at least 3% of GDP.  Yet investments at this scale beg obvious questions – why 3% of GDP rather than 2.9% or 3.1%?   Why is the public sector involved? What is the evidence, beyond anecdotes, that investments in science lead to innovation?  In sum, what are the returns to investment in research? Answering these questions has become an important policy issue in its own right; and the way in which the answers are measured is equally important  – what you measure is what you get.

Evidence based answers have been difficult to find. Part of this is because outputs are manifold and the processes are complex. Part of it is that the appropriate data exist in multiple places and in a wide variety of formats. Part of it is that analytical approaches have been confused with reporting approaches.

This seminar discusses the use of big data approaches to answer these important questions. It describes the conceptual and empirical framework used to trace the activities of researchers and their networks in the creation, adoption and transmission of ideas to the economic and scientific marketplace.

About Julia
Julia Lane is an Institute Fellow at the American Institutes for Research, professor of economics, BETA University of Strasbourg CNRS, Chercheur, Observatoire des Sciences et des Techniques, Paris, and professor, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research, University of Melbourne. She was formerly director of the National Science Foundation's Science of Science and Innovation Policy program, senior vice president at NORC at the University of Chicago and senior research fellow at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Dr. Lane has authored over 65 refereed articles and edited or authored seven books. She has been working with a number of national governments to document the results of their science investments. Her work has been featured in Science and Nature, and she has testified on the topic to both the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament. She is a coeditor, with the late Jack Marburger, of the Handbook of Science of Science Policy.