Economics Professor, Gerald Marschke, Receives Grant to Document Trends in the Age Distribution of the Scientific Workforce

Gerald R. Marschke

Sponsor:    National Bureau of Economic
Dates:        September 30, 2013 – June 30, 2014
Amount:    $52,670

Aging and the Production of High-Impact and Transformative Research

Researchers, research institutions, and policy makers are particularly interested in producing high impact and transformative research, but researchers are typically viewed as most likely to produce their most important and transformative work when young. Yet the US scientific workforce is aging. This project will document trends in the age distribution of the scientific workforce in order to address questions such as: Are the young primary contributors to high impact and transformative science? Do older practitioners stifle transformative research or do they facilitate radical change either directly or indirectly through their interaction with younger workers (e.g., collaboration)? Building on our existing research identifying radical scientific change, we will use data on citations to scientific articles to: (1) develop metrics and visualization tools to identify high-impact and transformative research, the periods in which high-impact and transformative research is produced, and how the production of high-impact and transformative work relates to the underlying features of fields, including researcher age and collaboration networks; (2) document the nature of high-impact and transformative work relative to other work and the inter-relationship between high-impact and transformative work ; and (3) estimate how the age-structure of innovative fields affects the quantity and quality of output in those fields. To estimate how the age-structure of fields affects output, we will generate instruments for the age-structure of fields using lagged values as well as major events (e.g. abrupt changes in support from funding agencies, such as stimulus spending). The analysis will contribute to our understanding of how age is related to the production of high-impact research and quantify the research consequences of our aging scientific workforce. The metrics we develop will also be of interest in their own right and our visualization tools can be used by the broader science policy community to identify where high impact and transformative work is being done and how their production relates to the characteristics of fields, including their age and network-structure.