The Fragile Foundations of Regional Scientific Advantage? The Impact of the US Administration Stem Cell Policy on the Geography of Scientific Discovery
Furman, Jeffrey L.
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In this paper we investigate the impact of the August 2001 U.S. administration stem cell research policy on the rate and composition of stem cell research in the United States in comparison to other countries. Although the policy enabled the first federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research; it precluded federal funding for all but a select set of pre-existing stem cell lines. We evaluate the specific impact of this policy on (a) the scientific advantage of U.S. stem cell researchers relative to the international community and (b) the consequences of this policy for the composition of follow-on research in the United States. Our research approach employs a differences-in-differences approach; comparing citations to seminal human embryonic stem cell articles with sets of associated controls; controlling for article age and calendar year effects and article-specific fixed effects. Our preliminary results suggest that hESC research output grew at a somewhat slower pace in the United States than the rest of the world in the post-shock period. Subtle issues associated with the timing of this shift make it difficult to draw unambiguous conclusions about the factors driving this result. A few facts are unambiguous. First; the policy shift did not lead to a wholesale erosion of U.S. scientific competitiveness in human stem cell research. Second; researchers at the highest status institutions were affected to a lesser degree by the policy shift and; third; US scientists demonstrate effective adaptation to the changes in their policy environment; particularly with respect to their collaborative behaviors. Each of these findings suggests that regional scientific advantage is robust to specific changes in the institutional environment.