The Endless Frontier: Reaping What Bush Sowed?

Paula Stephan

Chapter in NBER book The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy (2015), Adam Jaffe and Benjamin Jones, editors (p. 321 - 366)
Conference held August 2-3, 2013
Published in July 2015 by University of Chicago Press
© 2015 by the National Bureau of Economic Research

I examine and document how the Endless Frontier changed the research landscape at universities and how universities responded to the initiative. I show that the agencies it established and funded initially recruited research proposals from faculty and applications from students for fellowships and scholarships. By the 1960s, universities began to push for more resources from the federal government for research, support for faculty salary and research assistants and higher indirect costs. The process transformed the relationship between universities and federal funders; it also transformed the relationship between universities and faculty. The university research system that has grown and evolved faces a number of challenges that threaten the health of universities and the research enterprise and have implications for discovery and innovation. Five are discussed in the closing section. They are (1) a proclivity on the part of faculty and funding agencies to be risk averse; (2) the tendency to produce more PhDs than the market for research positions demands; (3) a heavy concentration of research in the biomedical sciences; (4) a continued expansion on the part of universities that may place universities at increased financial risk and (5) a flat or declining amount of federal funds for research.

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This paper was revised on July 18, 2014

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w19687, The Endless Frontier: Reaping what Bush Sowed?, Paula Stephan
Commentary on this chapter: Comment, Bruce A. Weinberg
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