The enactment of the America COMPETES Act in 2006 (and its reauthorization in 2010), the increase in research expenditures under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and President Obama's general emphasis on the contribution of science and technology to economic growth have all heightened interest in the role of scientific and engineering research in creating jobs, generating innovative technologies, spawning new industries, improving health, and producing other economic and societal benefits. Along with this interest has come a renewed emphasis on a question that has been asked for decades: Can the impacts and practical benefits of research to society be measured either quantitatively or qualitatively?
On April 18-19, 2011, the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) and the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, held a workshop to examine this question. The workshop sought to assemble the range of work that has been done in measuring research outcomes and to provide a forum to discuss its method. The workshop was motivated by a 2009 letter from Congressman Rush Holt (D-New Jersey). He asked the National Academies to look into a variety of complex and interconnected issues, such as the short-term and long-term economic and non-economic impact of federal research funding, factors that determine whether federally funded research discoveries result in economic benefits, and quantification of the impacts of research on national security, the environment, health, education, public welfare, and decision making.
Measuring the Impacts of Federal Investments in Research provides the key observations and suggestions made by the speakers at the workshop and during the discussions that followed the formal presentations.