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Created Feb 24, 2021
Big Firms Have Different Incentives
A reason large firms conduct R&D at the same rate as small ones, despite (apparently) lower R&D productivity
Geography and What Gets Researched
The salience of local problems
How to Impede Technological Progress
Raise the cost of research, or reduce the rewards of it
The Size of Firms and the Nature of Innovation
Big firms do things differently
When Technology Goes Bad
Models of economic growth where sometimes technology gets you killed
Can taste beat peer review?
Suggestive evidence says yes, but we need to know more
What does peer review know?
It knows a bit!
Biases Against Risky Research
What if risk aversion is a lot of little biases that add up?
Evidence that local interaction leads to deeper engagement with new ideas
Innovators Who Immigrate
Big impacts for people who move to countries where science is happening
Age and the Nature of Innovation
New ideas vs deep expertise; conceptual vs experimental innovation
Age and the Impact of Innovations
Average impact falls but the hits keep coming
Remote teams have traditionally been bad at breakthrough innovation, but things may have changed
What if we could automate invention?
Growth theory in the shadow of artificial general intelligence
Innovation at the Office
Very close physical proximity helps people discover each other, if they wouldn't otherwise
Contingency and Science
Science can follow more than one path
Do Academic Citations Measure the Impact of New Ideas?
Yes, but with some serious caveats
How common is independent discovery?
Relatively common for ideas we know will be big, but not so much for the rest
Science is getting harder
Evidence that discoveries are getting smaller on average
When Extreme Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Evidence from Three Global Crises
Steering Science with Prizes
Public honors as coordination devices
Progress in Programming as Evolution
Do the same mechanisms that create complex life also create complex technology?
Pulling More Fuel Efficient Cars Into Existence
Evidence that emissions standards and high fuel prices boost clean innovation in cars
"Patent Stocks" and Technological Inertia
Why does patenting yesterday predict patenting today?
Building a New Research Field
Solving "More Research Needed"
Gender and What Gets Researched
Evidence on how life experiences influence research choices
Is Technological Progress Slowing? The case of American Agriculture
Into the weeds
Conservatism in Science
Some of the forces blocking really new ideas in research
Science as a map of unfamiliar terrain
Science is particularly useful for inventions in unfamiliar or difficult knowledge domains
How a field fixes itself: the applied turn in economics
Some theory on how academia changes itself, with an illustration from economics
How long does it take to go from science to technology?
20 years is a good rule of thumb
The "idea" of being an entrepreneur
Evidence that this idea spreads best from people in a similar social position, and that you can only get the idea once
Publish-or-perish and the quality of science
Incentives to publish fast are in tension with careful science
Are ideas getting harder to find because of the burden of knowledge?
More researchers per innovation, because you need more knowledge to solve frontier problems
The knowledge immigrants bring with them takes root in receiving countries
Entrepreneurship is contagious
Exposure to entrepreneurs (mostly) encourages entrepreneurship
Medicine and the Limits of Market Driven Innovation
In medicine, applied research and development responds strongly to profit signals, more basic research not so much
Buterin, Hitzig, and Weyl's proposal to fund public goods
Academic Conferences and Collaboration
Evidence that academic conferences facilitate subsequent collaborations between attendees
An example of successful innovation by distributed teams: academia
Why remote collaboration is becoming so common in academia, and what we can learn from it
Publication bias without editors? The case of preprint servers
The challenge of building outlets to host research that can't be published in top journals
Science is good at making useful knowledge
Some evidence the scientific incentive system works
Progress in the film industry
Filmmaking is a technology too, and like other technologies it gets better
More People Leads to More Ideas
If ideas comes from brains, maybe more brains means more innovation
The Internet, the Postal Service, and Access to Distant Ideas
How easier long-distance communication erodes local knowledge spillovers
Combinatorial innovation and technological progress in the very long run
Taking a stab at some psychohistory
Innovation (mostly) Gets Harder
Micro and macro evidence on the productivity of R&D over time
One question, many answers
When you give multiple teams of researchers the same question and data, it's not uncommon to get different results
The Best New Ideas Combine Disparate Old Ideas
Evidence from patents and papers
Transportation and Innovation
Cheaper travel is one reason local knowledge spillovers are declining
Why is publication bias worse in some disciplines than in others?
Physical sciences seem to have less issues - is that due to empirical tools, theory, or both?
Increasingly Distant Knowledge Spillovers
Evidence from patents
Science Responds Quickly to Retraction
Some evidence that science does self-correct
Publication Bias is Real
Several strands of evidence on the size of publication bias
Knowledge Spillovers are a Big Deal
They are usually more than half the point of R&D
An Example of High Returns to Publicly Funded R&D
Quasi-experimental evidence on the effectiveness of giving R&D grants to small businesses
Highly cited innovation takes a team
Usually. But there are some exceptions.
What are the Returns to R&D?
A Thought Experiment by Jones and Summers
Measuring Knowledge Spillovers: The Trouble with Patent Citations
Patents make citations to other patents, but that doesn't always mean engagement with the cited patent's ideas
Urban Social Infrastructure and Innovation
Cities as a platform to remix knowledge
Ripples in the River of Knowledge
Technologies directly dependent on science are atypical, but they may have indirect impacts on most technologies
Upstream Patenting Predicts Downstream Patenting
If patents in one tech class cite another, a surge in patenting in the cited class forecasts patenting in the citing one
More Science Leads to More Innovation
Natural experiments in the extent of science show predictable effects on technology that relies on science
Learning Curves are Tough to Use
Better than standard evidence for the existence of learning curves, as well as why they are less useful than hoped
Standard Evidence for Learning Curves isn't Good Enough
Why a tight correlation between cumulative experience and declining costs doesn't really prove anything.
Free Knowledge and Innovation
Access to libraries boosts local patent rates; access to wikipedia shapes science
Why proximity matters: who you know
Physical proximity is more important for meeting new people (with new knowledge) than for collaboration
Adjacent knowledge is useful
Knowledge that is different - but not too different - tends to be most useful for innovation.
New Things Under the Sun
Institute for Progress