Using Scientific Publications to Evaluate Government R&D Spending: The Case of Energy
The mix of public and private research funding investments in alternative energy presents a challenge for isolating the effect of government R&D funding. Factors such as energy prices and environmental policy influence both private and public R&D decisions. Moreover, 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. Combining data on scientific publications for alternative energy technologies with data on government R&D support for these technologies, we address these challenges. First, we ask how long it takes for energy R&D to provide successful research outcomes. We both provide information on the lags between research funding and new publication and link these articles to citations in U.S. energy patents. One million dollars in additional government R&D funding leads to 1-2 additional publications, but with lags as long as ten years between initial funding and publication. Second, we ask whether adjustment costs associated with large increases in research funding result in diminishing returns to government R&D. There is no evidence of diminishing returns on the level of publication output, but some evidence that additional funding leads to lower quality publications, using citations as a measure of publication quality.
This work was supported by NSF grant # SMA-1064161. Jung Eun Kim, Qing Miao and Tian Tang all provided excellent research assistance on this project. I thank Andrew Toole and seminar participants at Syracuse University, Resources for the Future, and the London School of Economics for helpful comments on earlier versions of this research. Finally, I thank Ann Kushmerick and Lauren Seltzer of Thomson Reuters for their assistance in obtaining the publication data used in this paper. Certain data included herein are derived from the Web of Science ® prepared by THOMSON REUTERS ®, Inc. (Thomson ®), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: the noted data is © Copyright THOMSON REUTERS ® 2012. All rights reserved. Thomson Reuters reserves the right to review the paper prior to dissemination to ensure that the confidentiality of the data is not unintentionally compromised. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.