and competitive advantage in a specific area (e.g., information technology or biosciences). A focus on life sciences or health-related research has been particularly common over the past decade, as at least 17 states have chosen to contribute at least a portion of their tobacco settlement funds to support such research (NGA, 2001). At the same time, it should be noted that, while specialization and focus can have substantial benefits, they must be balanced by the realization that scientific progress in specific areas usually depends on complementary developments in other arenas of the scientific frontier and in other geographic areas. Other common state programs include those designed to attract highly productive researchers to a state. These programs—often termed eminent scholars programs—date to the 1960s, when Virginia adopted its program, and have gained in popularity in recent decades. CIRM’s research leadership grants, which provide funding to recruit leading stem cell scientists to California, fall within the tradition of these programs.
The value and impact of these state programs designed to fund research grants or to recruit scientists should be assessed in the broader context of a state’s support for its overall research and development enterprise, including, for example, its research universities. If these programs come at the expense of other key aspects of the state’s investments in the vitality of its research and development enterprise, then they may represent at best little more than a reallocation of existing funds and may have little if any net effect on either the enterprise or its economic prospects.
Even as these supportive policies have been adopted, numerous states have taken action to restrict scientific inquiry in morally contentious areas. Many of these state policies have focused on fetal and embryonic research. These policies take several forms, including an outright ban on research using aborted fetal tissue or human embryos created in vitro; a ban on specific techniques, such as somatic cell nuclear transfer; or a restriction on the use of state funding for certain research. Befitting the ethically contentious nature of these fields, some states have adopted essentially opposite policies, indicating that specific types of research are legal in the state. In some cases, including California’s, these rules have accompanied or been followed by state funding, while in other cases, they are stand-alone policies. States adopting these sorts of supportive policies have pursued two main strategies: (1) identifying and establishing the legality of specific research techniques or (2) adopting laws indicating that any research legal under federal law is legal under state law.10
10More information on these state laws can be found in Andrews (2004) and in a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) database updated through 2008 (NCSL, 2008).