My research is primarily focused on knowledge production processes by private firms and university researchers. I specifically examine the increasing importance of R&D investment among private firms in the U.S. food and agricultural sectors and research collaborations among the life scientists, including health, agricultural, and biological sciences. My research interests also extend into the fields of industrial organization, applied microeconomics, and policy analysis.
1. An Examination of Private (Sectoral and Firm-Level) Investments in U.S. Food and Agricultural R&D (with Philip G. Pardey, Steven P. Dehmer and Steve Miller)
Abstract: The relationship between a firm's financial position and its spending on research and development (R&D) has been studied for a number of manufacturing sectors. However, few, if any, such studies have been done for the food and agricultural sectors, most likely a reflection of the substantive public R&D presence in these sectors plus a paucity of suitable firm-level data. Here we reveal and discuss the details of an entirely new set of firm-level data pertaining to R&D conducted over the period 1950-2014 by food or agriculturally related businesses located in the United States. We also econometrically examine the associations between firm-level sales, profit rates, and R&D spending among these firms. We find a large variation among firms in their absolute and relative (to sales) investments in R&D, a variation that becomes more pronounced over time. We also find that contemporaneous output growth has a positive and statistically significant effect on contemporaneous R&D growth for both food and agricultural firms. In contrast, the profit rate to R&D investment relationship is only significant for agricultural firms. This result holds even if we set aside (often smaller) firms with unduly high year-on-year changes in their R&D growth. These results suggest that annual changes in R&D investments by agricultural firms are influenced by both profit rate and demand (i.e., sales) shocks, whereas annual changes in R&D investments by food-related firms are more responsive to changes in the contemporaneous sales performance of these firms.
2. Assessing the Propensity to Collaborate in Life Sciences Research (with Steve Miller and Philip G. Pardey)
Abstract: Collaboration among researchers is increasing, but among all possible pairs of researchers few actually work together. It is thus natural to ask what information signals do researchers use in selecting research partners from among a large pool of potential collaborators. This study has addressed that question for life sciences researchers focusing on three particular types of signals: perceived research productivity, knowledge complementarity, and professional familiarity. We investigate the collaboration consequences of these signals by using academic publication data published by life sciences faculty at the University of Minnesota (UMN) from 1999 to 2014, focusing on papers in which all of the authors are affiliated with UMN. We have found perceived research productivity is positively associated with the initiation of first collaboration while complementary knowledge is not. For continuing collaborations, however, knowledge complementarity becomes significant as well as the recency of first collaboration and the frequency of past collaborations. While complementarity is noted as a key driver of repetitive collaborations, researchers are more likely to collaborate with coauthors who have moderate differences in research profile. This suggests that the factors researchers consider when choosing coauthors vary with respect to the types of collaboration. This study contributes to the empirical literature on research team formation and to university administrators seeking to promote more collaboration among researchers.
3. Patterns of Research Collaboration in the Life Sciences (with Steve Miller and Philip G. Pardey)
Abstract: The perceived rise of collaborative research raises a range of questions about who collaborates, with whom and why, and whether those partnerships are ultimately beneficial. We investigate these questions using a newly constructed panel dataset of 3,305 scientists from three large academic units within the University of Minnesota (UMN). We found that for this sample of researchers the total number of publications nearly doubled during that period, and involved a large increase in the number of outside collaborations. This suggests that researchers increasingly perceived that the benefits from outside collaborations outweighed the additional costs that may arise from collaborating externally. Those benefits apparently do not include increased research (or more specifically publication) productivity at the university level, but rather, it seems, that researchers pursue these external collaborations to boost citation rates. On the other hand, we also find evidence consistent with declining costs of cross-institution collaboration. Re-examining these questions at the college level reveals patterns consistent with heterogeneity in benefits and costs of collaboration across colleges. On close examination, we did find that researchers in the other life-science colleges may seek outside collaborations in search of productivity rather than citation gains.
- Pardey, P.G., J.M. Alston, C. Chan-Kang, T.M. Hurley, R.S. Andrade, Steven P. Dehmer, K. Lee, and X. Rao. (2018). "The Shifting Structure of Agricultural R&D: Worldwide Investment Patterns and Payoffs." In From Agriscience to Agribusiness: Theories, Policies and Practices in Technology Transfer and Commercialization, edited by Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Elias G. Carayannis, Evangelos Grigoroudis, and Stelios Rozakis, 13- 39. Springer International Publishing.