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Melvin Stephens

John Bound photo

Federal Stimulus Funding for Research: An Assessment of Employment Responses

a PSC Research Project

Investigator:   John Bound

The federal stimulus effort includes substantial direct and indirect support for research in a number of scientific and social science fields through NSF, NIH, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, and other units in the federal government. To illustrate, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009) provided for the increase in the budget of the National Science Foundation by about $3 billion and an increase in research funding associated with the National Institutes of Health of about $8 billion. A considerable share of these appropriations will be directed toward research funding, including the funding of proposals already in the review pipeline and the expedited review of proposals in high priority areas



The question of how the flow of stimulus funding to colleges and universities affects academic employment is of central interest. Stimulus funding may have a substantial impact on university hiring and staffing, though the magnitude of these impacts will depend on the underlying elasticity of supply in the labor market for high skilled workers in science and engineering (S&E). Stimulus funding may particularly impact the hiring of post-docs, as well as the enrollment of new graduate students, with potentially more modest impacts on the employment of full-time tenure track faculty. To the extent that the international supply of doctorate-level workers in science and engineering is much greater than the domestic supply, we might expect that a substantial share of the increase in S&E employment in response to the stimulus will come from foreign PhDs.



The magnitude of the stimulus and the planned rapid infusion of resources into the academic-based scientific enterprise provide a unique opportunity to understand how the production of science and the associated employment of scientists respond to large changes in funding. Collection of data on stimulus-related funding allocations in the coming two-year period is critical to record and assess the impact of stimulus research funding on employment outcomes in science and engineering labor markets. In addition, immediate investment in recording the distribution of funds, changes in employment and associated research inputs is critical to set the stage for the long-run assessment of how this dramatic change in the availability of research funding affects the quantity and quality of research and scientific discovery. Because traditional data sets tracking research, enrollment, and employment outcomes at the university level are limited in detail and available only after lags of several years, an intensive and timely data collection effort is necessitated.

Funding Period: 06/15/2009 to 12/31/2011

Country of Focus: USA

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