New Things Under the Sun is a living literature review about academic research on the economics of innovation, science of science, creativity, and discovery, written by me, Matt Clancy. It aims to be a guide to what academia knows about innovation, acknowledging that academic knowledge is always provisional and contested, and this is just one (incomplete) perspective on it. Incomplete and provisional as it is, this knowledge is still quite valuable.
The site is a growing collection of articles which primarily emphasize “claims” about innovation rather than individual academic studies. A typical article will be 1,000-4,000 words reviewing a curated set of evidence from multiple academic papers for or against the claim. These “claim” articles are updated as the academic literature evolves (with a record of all changes to an article preserved). There are also a smaller number of “argument” articles which advance broader arguments about innovation, built up from claims.
New Things Under the Sun is written to be accessible to all interested readers, especially those working in other academic fields, in the policy world, and the private sector. At the same time, I strive to provide enough depth for readers to understand the methods and evidence for claims made.
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I am a research fellow at Open Philanthropy, where one of my official work duties is writing and maintaining this site. I am also a senior fellow at the Institute for Progress (and was previously Senior Innovation Economist there). I have been navigating academic work on innovation since beginning a PhD in economics at Iowa State University in 2010. My first published paper was a literature review on incentives to innovate, published in 2013. I am a regular peer reviewer for journals such as Research Policy and PLOSone and have published peer reviewed academic work in a variety of venues.
Most importantly, I love reading and writing about this stuff. I hope that if you look around this site you’ll be convinced I’m a trustworthy guide to this world.
I am an employee of Open Philanthropy and one of my official work duties is maintaining this project. Open Philanthropy does not exercise editorial control over the project.
Prior to my joining Open Philanthropy in November 2022, I was an employee at the Institute for Progress, where I worked on this project with grant support from Open Philanthropy. Before that, I was at Iowa State University. During 2021, a grant from Emergent Ventures at the Mercatus Center provided funding for me to work part-time on this project.
Please email me ([email protected]). This is a living literature review, and articles are regularly updated. I will respond promptly where corrections are necessary. However, if you are suggesting I should add an additional paper, I will probably move more slowly, as I have a long queue of updates. More generally, I cannot guarantee I will always add articles that might be relevant. To keep things short and accessible, I do exercise some curatorial discretion. I won’t ever misrepresent the evidence (as I see it), but I’m not trying to write a comprehensive literature review for each claim.
There is no fixed order. Here are a few suggestions for ways to explore this site:
Go to the claims page and start reading something that looks interesting
Read an argument and dive deeper into any underlying claims
Check out the backlog of newsletters to see what’s been added in the last few weeks
Search for an author or article title and see if and how it’s been covered
I hope you find something you enjoy. - Matt