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Noah Smith

Lesser-Known Universities Do More With Research Money

Top schools don’t generate as many breakthroughs.

Spend wisely.

Spend wisely.

Source: West Virginia/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Productivity growth in developed countries has been slowing down, threatening to cause a long-term stagnation in living standards. One contributing factor could be that it’s getting more expensive to find new scientific and technological ideas. Economists Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen and Michael Webb recently tried to measure innovation in various fields, and found that more and more researchers were needed to produce the same pace of discovery:

That’s an ominous trend. Governments and companies can pour ever more resources into science and technology, but if this spending becomes less effective, the costs of innovation will eventually swamp the benefits, causing scientific progress to grind to a halt. To avert this scenario for as long as possible, governments and companies need to find ways to make each dollar of research spending go further.