Prizes for Basic Research -- Human Capital, Economic Might and the Shadow of History

35 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2006 Last revised: 26 Jul 2006

See all articles by Joshua Aizenman

Joshua Aizenman

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Ilan Noy

Victoria University of Wellington

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2006

Abstract

This paper studies the impact of several factors on the geographical distribution of basic scientific research across countries and time, and explains the dynamics of the process that has resulted in the United States becoming the undisputed leader in basic research. Our study is based on the records of major scientific awards, and on data dealing with global economic and historical trends. We investigate the degree to which scale or threshold effects account for the number of major prizes (Nobel, Fields, Kyoto, Wolf) won by different countries. We constructed a stylized model, predicting that lagged relative GDP of a country relative to the GDP of all countries engaging in basic research is an important explanatory variable of a country?s share of prizes. Scale effects imply that the association between the GDP share of a country and its prize share can be logistic -- above a certain threshold, there is a take-off range, where the prize share increases at an accelerating rate relative to the GDP share of the country, until it reaches "maturity" stage. Our empirical research findings confirm the importance of lagged relative GDP in accounting for a country's prize shares, and the presence of a "winner-takes-all" scale effect benefiting the leader. We found that U.S. basic research take-off started during the 1920s, with this research being done in the United States by U.S. scholars, prior to the immigration of scientists after Hitler's rise to power in Germany (1932-33). This is consistent with the notion that World War II set in motion forces that did not start, but hastened, the U.S. take-off, triggering immigration that contributed to the speed and intensity of U.S. research dominance. Using more recent data, we also documented the growing importance of countries that used to be at the periphery of global research, but are now possibly advancing towards the take-off stage.

Suggested Citation

Aizenman, Joshua and Noy, Ilan, Prizes for Basic Research -- Human Capital, Economic Might and the Shadow of History (May 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12226, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=902578

Joshua Aizenman (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ilan Noy

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
22
Abstract Views
604
PlumX Metrics