The “Swing of the Pendulum” from Public to Market Support for Science and Technology: Is the US Leading the Way?
Heitor, Manuel V.
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The structure and financing of science and technology activities are undergoing a slow, but profound, change. This change can be briefly characterized as a shift from relying and supporting public science to a stronger emphasis on “market-based” incentives for science and technology. In this paper we analyze this shift in a historical perspective, discussing both the theoretical explanations and the empirical trends of the ongoing change. While we do not claim to provide a comprehensive and exhaustive identification of the causes of this shift, we argue that it is largely driven by the perception of a shift of the US policy towards market-based, rather than publicly support, incentives for science and technology. This, in turn – given the strong economic performance of the US over the 1990s – has influenced policies in most OECD countries, and especially in Europe. We conclude by analyzing the evolution of research in US higher education and find two major trends: an increasing diversity in the number of institutions of different types other than universities and a steady and continuous public funding of the leading US universities. This has allowed the construction of an infrastructure now used largely by the private sector, but it also noted that the US has not compromised public support for core areas or in those fields in which there is a clear perception that market incentives are not sufficient for meeting the strategic targets of the US policy. The implication is that there is a considerable “policy diversity” in the US practice and that all aspects of this diversity should be considered when using the US as a reference.