As Science Evolves, How Can Science Policy?

Benjamin Jones

NBER Working Paper No. 16002
Issued in May 2010
NBER Program(s):The Education Program, The Economic Fluctuations and Growth Program, The Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Program

Getting science policy right is a core objective of government that bears on scientific advance, economic growth, health, and longevity. Yet the process of science is changing. As science advances and knowledge accumulates, ensuing generations of innovators spend longer in training and become more narrowly expert, shifting key innovations (i) later in the life cycle and (ii) from solo researchers toward teams. This paper summarizes the evidence that science has evolved - and continues to evolve - on both dimensions. The paper then considers science policy. The ongoing shift away from younger scholars and toward teamwork raises serious policy challenges. Central issues involve (a) maintaining incentives for entry into scientific careers as the training phase extends, (b) ensuring effective evaluation of ideas (including decisions on patent rights and research grants) as evaluator expertise narrows, and (c) providing appropriate effort incentives as scientists increasingly work in teams. Institutions such as government grant agencies, the patent office, the science education system, and the Nobel Prize come under a unified focus in this paper. In all cases, the question is how these institutions can change. As science evolves, science policy may become increasingly misaligned with science itself - unless science policy evolves in tandem.

download in pdf format
   (139 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16002

Published: As Science Evolves, How Can Science Policy?, Benjamin F. Jones. in Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 11, Lerner and Stern. 2010

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Jones w11360 The Burden of Knowledge and the 'Death of the Renaissance Man': Is Innovation Getting Harder?
Hall, Mairesse, and Mohnen w15622 Measuring the Returns to R&D
Jones As Science Evolves, How Can Science Policy?
Jones w11359 Age and Great Invention
Goolsbee w6532 Does Government R&D Policy Mainly Benefit Scientists and Engineers?
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us