Comments on “Critical episodes in the progress of medical innovation” and “A policy-shaped research agenda on the economics of science and technology”

Innovation and Economic Growth

Article Snapshot


Mark Schankerman


The New Economics of Technology Policy, Dominique Foray, ed., Edward Elger Publishing Limited, Cheltenham, UK, 2009


This review discusses the content and implications of papers on the economics of innovation and research policy.

Policy Relevance

Revising research program evaluation methods may allow policymakers to more efficiently allocate public funds for basic and applied science.

Main Points

  • Economic evaluation of government research programs is typically retrospective, but policymakers would benefit from having information about prospective economics payoffs to research.
  • Rather than simply evaluating whether a research program has been effective, it would be useful to determine which particular features of a program are effective, and under what circumstances.
  • Presently most research policy evaluation is performed by empirical researchers. In order to anticipate idiosyncratic problems that can't be easily predicted with available data, it would be useful to include more theorists.
  • It is important to maintain regular research budgets spread across scientific fields.
    • Research is an experimental, cumulative, iterative process; fluctuating funding makes research particularly difficult.
    • Different fields often complement each other. For example, electron microscopes invented by physicists have become valuable tools in biology.
  • There are limits to what economists can say confidently; research outcomes are inherently difficult to predict.


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