Over the past 15 years, the federal government has put increasing pressure on its R&D laboratories to demonstrate the economic effectiveness of their research programs. The labs have been notoriously resistant to these pressures, citing the intangible nature of science as a key reason for not documenting the monetary impacts of laboratory technology transfer. In an article I recently published with Albert N. Link, a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (M. Papadakis, A.N. Link, Evaluation and Program Planning, 20 [1]:91-102, 1997), we show that it is possible to develop cost-benefit estimates for two common types of research impacts: new business start-ups and product innovations. While we do not suggest in that article that all fundamental science can (or should) be evaluated using cost-benefit analysis, we do suggest that the economic benefits of science are not fundamentally unmeasurable.

Government R&D laboratories-such as the National Institutes...

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