Sunday, August 9, 2015

"Science and University" edited by Paula Stephan and Ronald Ehrenberg

Republished with some modifications.

I have decided to read this book, "Science and University" edited by Paula Stephan and Ronald Ehrenberg, to better understand academia/university science funding in US. 

This is not a new book. It was published in 2007. One of its editors, Paula Stephan, later in 2012 published a book titled "How Economics Shapes Science" that attracted big attention and was reviewed intensively in both scientific and news articles. I thought this earlier book will be kind of introductory for reading later one. 

What did I learn from this book? Honestly, not much at all. It is written in a very dry language, with lots of numbers that have no meaning without proper interpretations. 

One new thing I learned was about existence of federal earmarks (funds in federal budget) allocated for specific projects or universities that are issued without competitive peer-review.  

As you know, the vast majority of federal funds that are going into research through NIH are screened by peer-review committees and allocated on the basis of their competitiveness. However, it turned out that around 2 billion dollars (in 2007), or around 10% of total federal R&D funds were issued through earmarks. It was proposed this would help 2nd tier universities to compete with big name universities. This could be true, except that subsequent analysis has revealed that scientific research derived from earmarked funds were of poorer quality (based on patents and publication records).

posted by David Usharauli          

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