NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Incentives in Basic Research

Edward P. Lazear

NBER Working Paper No. 5444
Issued in January 1996
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Individuals involved in basic research, like other workers, respond to incentives. Funding agencies provide implicit incentives when they specify the rules by which awards are made. The following analysis is an exercise in understanding incentives at an applied level. Specific rules are examined and analyzed to determine their incentive effects. For example, what is the effect of rewarding past effort? What happens when a few large awards are replaced by many small awards? How does the timing of an award affect effort? How does an agency choose which topics to fund? After having mapped out the responses of researchers to rules, socially optimal rules are derived. Research incentive issues have private business analogues, and the extension to the operation of the firm is discussed briefly.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5444

Published: Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 15, no. 1, part 2 (January 1997): S167-S197. citation courtesy of

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