Past Seminar

Using Scientific Publications to Evaluate Government R&D Spending: The Case of Energy

Apr 24, 2014

About the Event


David Popp, Associate Professor of Public Administration Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University


Because of their potential to both reduce emissions associated with climate change and improve energy security, government spending on research and development of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power is growing around the world. Assessing the effectiveness of this research support is complex. The mix of public and private research funding used to support the development of such alternative energy sources presents a challenge for estimating the effect of government R&D funding. Because government R&D is further upstream from the final commercialized product, it may take several years for its effect on technology to be realized. At the same time, factors such as energy prices and environmental policy influence both private and public R&D decisions. To disentangle the effect of each type of R&D, this research project uses data on scientific publications from the U.S., Japan, and Europe to assess the effect of government-sponsored energy R&D. Combining data on scientific publications for alternative energy technologies with data on government R&D support for these technologies, I address three research questions: First, how does government R&D affect the returns to basic research? Using counts of both publications and the citations made to these publications, this project asks whether increases in government R&D in a specific field lead to not only more research output, but more importantly, better research output. Second, are there diminishing returns to government R&D support, so that increases in R&D support less fruitful projects? These may occur because of adjustment costs, or because government R&D supports work that would have otherwise been financed through other means. Third, as the ultimate goal of government research funding is to lead to new applications, the project assesses the impact of these publications on applied research by linking publication data to citations on U.S. energy patents.
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  • David Popp