The new gallium arsenide computer chips, with processing speeds nearly 10 times faster than silicon, provide plenty of food for thought to an electronics industry hungry for success. But observers still have little to chew on when they try to measure the chips' impact.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers wants to enrich the meal. It has joined with Nobel laureate Wassily Leontief of New York University's Institute for Economic Analysis on a model to help people evaluate the economic impact of research on circles as small as their own companies and as large as the world economy.
The model will apply input-output analysis-an economic method pioneered by Leontief that determines how industries interact and affect each other-to information gleaned from interviews with some 2,000 specialists in various scientific disciplines, explained Wen Chow, the Society's group director for technical affairs. The basic model, projected to include information on 150 industry groups, attempts to improve what already exists in economic forecasting.
"There are economic models that evaluate technology and there are guides that help decision makers, but there aren't any real tech-nical-economic models that position science prominently as an integral factor," said Ali Seireg, senior vice president and chairman of the Society's Council on Engineering. It will take three years to set up the main model, which will be updated as technologies develop.
The Society's 120,000 members and volunteers from other scientific groups will collect the data. Teams will meet with at least three volunteer experts at companies across the country, seeking information on capital and labor requirements and ancillary expenses.