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Supporting Science with Economics

Supporting Science with Economics

By Tara Roberts

Eric Stuen, an assistant professor in the University of Idaho College of Business and Economics, studies the economics of science and innovation – including the vital role higher education plays in developing technology.

“It’s been well known that university science is important for keeping our high-tech industries strong and competitive,” he says.

One of Stuen’s recent projects examines the importance of bringing researchers from around the world together at universities. The results could have policy implications.

Stuen, along with two other economists from Yale and the University of Colorado, studied 26 years of data about doctoral students from 2,300 science and engineering departments.

The resulting paper was the first to definitively quantify the benefits of foreign doctoral students in American labs. While American and international students both publish papers and receive citations at roughly the same rate, a department as a whole is more productive if its researchers come from a variety of countries.

Stuen says their findings imply that limiting the number of international and American doctoral applicants, such as by cutting scholarship opportunities or limiting visas, would sharply reduce the research productivity of science and engineering departments.

An article about the research is forthcoming in a European publication, and Stuen and his co-authors are working on a piece for a U.S. publication explaining their work’s relevance to governments and universities.

“We hope that evidence-based research matters for public policy regarding science and innovation,” he says.

The study ties in to some of Stuen’s other projects as well. He and Jing Sun, also an assistant professor of economics at U-Idaho, are looking at how ethnic communities affect international trade.

“People with ties to other countries may encourage international trade by reducing communication barriers between companies from different countries and by providing information about local market conditions,” Stuen explains.

His previous data have helped this research, because a country's ethnic communities and trade flows are linked to the flow of international students.

Stuen also is investigating how university science influences the economy, and vice versa.

Inspired Discoveries 2013

University of Idaho’s Annual Research Report More