On the Biomedical Elite: Inequality and Stasis in Scientific Knowledge Production

24 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2017

See all articles by Yarden Katz

Yarden Katz

Harvard Medical School; Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Ulrich Matter

University of St. Gallen - Swiss Institute for International Economics and Applied Economic Research

Date Written: July 11, 2017

Abstract

Researchers and research institutes are increasingly being evaluated using metrics (from bibliometrics to patent counts), which are core instruments of a longstanding effort to quantify scientific productivity and worth. Here, we examine the relationship between commonly used metrics and funding levels for investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health, the largest public funder of biomedical research in the United States, in the years 1985-2015. We find that funding inequality has been rising since 1985, with a small segment of investigators and institutes getting an increasing proportion of funds, and that investigators who start in the top funding ranks tend to stay there (which results in stasis, or lack of mobility). Furthermore, funding levels are a strong quantitative predictor of the interrelated set of metrics frequently used by economists and policy makers to evaluate scientific research. Our results suggest that the widespread system of metrics favors a minority of elite, highly funded researchers and institutes. Current attempts to “optimize” science are inextricably linked to the concentration of funds in the biomedical research system and are likely to further reduce diversity in the research community.

Suggested Citation

Katz, Yarden and Matter, Ulrich, On the Biomedical Elite: Inequality and Stasis in Scientific Knowledge Production (July 11, 2017). Berkman Klein Center Research Publication No. 2017-5. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3000628 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3000628

Yarden Katz (Contact Author)

Harvard Medical School ( email )

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

HOME PAGE: http://yarden.github.io

Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ulrich Matter

University of St. Gallen - Swiss Institute for International Economics and Applied Economic Research ( email )

Bodanstrasse 8
St. Gallen, 9000
Switzerland

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