How Economics Shapes Science

How Economics Shapes Science

Hardback

By (author) Paula E. Stephan

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  • Publisher: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Hardback | 384 pages
  • Dimensions: 154mm x 234mm x 30mm | 680g
  • Publication date: 9 January 2012
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 0674049713
  • ISBN 13: 9780674049710
  • Illustrations note: 13 line illustrations, 7 tables
  • Sales rank: 388,823

Product description

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.

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Author information

Paula Stephan is Professor of Economics at Georgia State University and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. 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.

Review quote

Illuminating and accessible...Using the "tool bag" economics provides for "analyzing the relationships between incentives and costs," [Stephan] penetrates the financial structure of university-based science, explaining the motivation and behavior of everyone from august university presidents and professors to powerless and impecunious graduate students and postdocs. It's a remarkably revealing approach...The short space at my disposal allows me to present just a hint of the penetrating discoveries waiting in this book...[A] rigorous and clear-eyed examination of the money trail. She conveys her findings in clear, comprehensible prose. If you want to understand what is really happening in American academic science today, here's my advice: Read this enlightening book. -- Beryl Lieff Benderly Science 20120106 A big biomedical lab spends 18 cents a day to keep one lab mouse, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars for animals each year. Economist Paula Stephan takes an exhaustive look at how publicly funded science pays such bills, and how this affects research, researchers and the economy. She argues that expanding universities and stagnant budgets have made funders and scientists more risk-averse, and stunted the development of young investigators. Nature 20120209 How Economics Shapes Science should be required reading for all scientists and students of science, who are increasingly called upon to adopt the language and logic of economics and engage in policy discussions. Paula Stephan (an economist at Georgia State University) makes her case in simple, easy-to-follow language, using timely examples...The book starts by summarizing the case that private industry alone will not invest in the socially optimal level of research, which will ultimately decrease the rate of innovation and lower economic growth. The logic is worth repeating at a time when there are calls for limiting government support for research and researchers face pressures to engage in lower-risk projects. Stephan convincingly argues that monetary incentives increasingly determine the behavior of researchers at the expense of scientists' desire to participate in the joy of solving problems, receive recognition, and obtain a good reputation. -- Maryann Feldman Science 20120309 This volume provides a useful summary of how economics shapes science that is accessible to students and researchers in a variety of disciplines and to policy makers. -- R. B. Emmett Choice 20120401 [An] original and engaging book...Informed, authoritative and thoughtful, Stephan's book will be an invaluable resource for scientists, policymakers and all those working to improve the "science of science and innovation policy" in the U.S., Europe and further afield. -- James Wilsdon Times Higher Education 20120412 [A] rich, data-driven, and nuanced discussion of science and economics...[A] excellent book. Stephan addresses how R&D spending is often driven by politics--either geo-politics (the Cold War) or personal politics (biomedical research), and how jobs in the sciences respond accordingly (and how competitive options for smart people have affected job uptake). She also talks about how difficult science and research spending is to measure from an economic efficiency perspective--essentially, because payback on investments can be quite indirect and take decades, choosing between investment options is fraught with the chance for mistakes. And the emerging trend showing that higher-impact science comes from funding entities that evaluate people instead of projects and provides longer-term funding is also covered...This book will have a special place on my shelf, as one of a handful of books that demand to be revisited, referenced, and re-read because there is so much clear and important information to be had, and some definite criticisms of the current system policy-makers need to consider. -- Kent Anderson Scholarly Kitchen 20120411