Federal Funding and Academic Productivity

Assessing Policy Levers for Sustainable Energy Researchers

by Aviva Litovitz

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With calls to increase federal funding in the physical sciences, in particular for sustainable energy technology (SET), there is a need to better understand the relationship between funding and innovation. In this dissertation, I examine the relationship between federal funding and research productivity, as revealed through publications and citations, for a sample of academic researchers with SET interests. I consider three policy levers the federal government can use to increase researcher productivity: (1) increase individual funding to increase individual research productivity, (2) increase individual funding in a particular topic area to increase individual research productivity in that area, and (3) increase national-level funding in a topic area to increase researcher participation in that area. I focus on SET and biomedical research as the topic areas of concern and created a sample consisting of academic chemists with a stated interest in SET, with data on their person-level federal grants received, publications, and citations.

I find that doubling of research funding at the individual level is associated with a 16% increase in publications and an 11% increase in highly-cited publications. At mean values for the sample, the publication increase is equivalent to a cost of $180,000 per additional publication with a funding increase, as compared to an average cost per publication of roughly $60,000. Within-topic relationships between funding and productivity are similar, with a doubling of funding in a topic area associated with a 5-25% increase in publications in that topic area, for both SET and biomedicine. Increased funding in one topic area is not negatively correlated with productivity in other topic areas, suggesting that researchers do not readily shift from one topic area to another. Finally, I consider national-level funding for a topic area and its relationship to researcher participation in that topic area. A 25% increase in national-level funding is associated with an 18% participation rate increase for SET and a 7% participation rate increase for biomedical research.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Literature on Federal Funding and Academic Science

  • Chapter Three

    Data Collection and Compilation

  • Chapter Four

    The Relationship between Grant Funding and Publications

  • Chapter Five

    The Relationship between Grant Funding and Publications, Within and Between Research Topic Areas

  • Chapter Six

    The Relationship between National‐Level Funding and Participation Rates for Research Topic Areas

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Text Mining

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in December 2014 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Paul Heaton (Chair), Jim Hosek, and Costa Samaras.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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