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engirded by our entrepreneur system. We must recognize that the U.S. university research system is a technology generator for our entire country, creating new technologies that lead to new industries and good new jobs.
Universities generally, under increasing scrutiny to devise measures of productivity of the academic enterprise, have taken up the argument that universities (specifically through their research missions) have significant economic impact. A recent summary published by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges 6 emphasizes that its member institutions foster new business, create new jobs, promote innovation, enhance the work force, and improve the quality (that is, the standard) of life—all positive economic forces that generally fall within the public service mission of these institutions. The data offered to support these points are unfortunately anecdotal and in some instances questionable.
In theory, assessing the value of research based on the productivity of university-industry partnerships should be relatively simple: the desirable metric should be in simple economic terms, consistently structured, unbiased by geography, and easily available. Unfortunately, if you search for hard and simple evidence of any universal metric, it cannot be found. In a recent publication of a government-university-industry research roundtable on the subject of developing performance standards and output measures for the research enterprise, we read: "Although measurement lies at the heart of the scientific method, no universal [emphasis mine] metrics exist for assessing research."7 Recently, writing in the New York Times, William Broad noted:8
Basic science, the kind that pursues fundamental knowledge for its own sake with no clear vision of how it might be practically applied, has long been considered a prime source of military and economic power. Yet, the exact relationship between science and innovation has been murky since the start of the industrial revolution.
If a metric is not obvious to use in measuring the economic productivity of research generally, that is certainly also the case for measures of the benefits of university research partnerships. For example, referring specifically to these collaborations, the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable stated in its annual report: "There is surprisingly little empirical information available about the probability of satisfaction or the actual benefits realized by those who engage in collaboration in cross sectors."9
So there we have it. Despite our sense that university-industry partnerships have produced significant economic impact, there is disagreement both on the point and on how to measure. We have even heard in other presentations in this Chemical Sciences Roundtable that any claims for a valid metric are simply fiction—hopeful fiction, perhaps, but fiction nevertheless.
The main point that I make in this presentation is that although there is no universal metric for assessing university-industry research collaboration productivity, there are, I believe, some individual metrics that can be used to measure important aspects of these partnerships. To be sure, there are many
National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, For Every Dollar Invested . . . The Economic Impact of Public Universities (Washington, D.C.: NASUSC, 1996).
Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable, National Academy of Sciences, The Costs of Research: Examining Patterns of Expenditures Across Research Sectors (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996).
William J. Broad, "Study Finds Public Service Is Pillar of Industry," New York Times, May 13, 1997, pp. B7-B 12.
Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable. National Academy of Sciences, The Costs of Research: Examining Patterns of Expenditures Across Research Sectors (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996).