Economic Approaches to Measuring the Performance and Benefits of Fundamental Science

by Steven W. Popper


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Analysts have used a number of methods to measure the performance and benefits of fundamental science. Output-oriented measures involve analyzing scientific output on the basis of such publication-based data as publication counts, citation analysis, and patent analysis. Economic or results-oriented measures include production function analysis and social rate of return analysis. Literature suggests that the most detailed method for assessing the influence of basic research on social and economic goals would be to look at the chain of events emanating from specific research outcomes and to note the downstream effects. Other more experiemental approaches have also been suggested. None of these approaches is sufficient in itself to answer the question of what the economic and social returns are from investment in science. However, there is still value in conducting such studies for the insight they provide.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.