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