U.Va. Receives Grant to Study Effect of Federal Stimulus on Science and Engineering Jobs

June 29, 2009 — The University of Virginia has received a National Science Foundation grant to research the impact of federal stimulus dollars on hiring in science and engineering.

The NSF announced on Friday that it will award $399,939 to U.Va. and the University of Michigan to "advance understanding of the impact of science investments."

Sarah Turner, University Professor of Economics and Education, is the principal investigator for the U.Va. grant, which will total $199,951. She said that funds provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act – $3 billion from the NSF and about $8 billion associated with the National Institutes of Health – offer a rare opportunity to study the responsiveness of the scientific labor market to increased funding.

"The immediate focus of our research is on how the flow of stimulus funding to colleges and universities affects university hiring and staffing," she said. "Because the science and engineering labor market is much more globally integrated today than ever before, an important dimension of our work is to measure the flows of scientists and students to U.S. universities in response to the stimulus from around the world."

A longer-term goal, she said, is to assess how the dramatic change in the availability of research funding affects the quantity and quality of research and scientific discovery.

Plans call for researchers to collect data on stimulus funding of academic science and engineering programs for a two-year period. The research is scheduled to begin before the end of the year.

The awards are the first of several NSF grants to study aspects of the government's economic stimulus package.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study how funding changes affect economic, social and scientific outcomes," said Julia Lane, program director for Science of Science and Innovation Policy at NSF, whose office made the awards.

The University of Michigan study, funded by a $199,988 grant, will develop a database to assess the full economic, social and scientific outcomes of social science research investments by following the entire life cycle of social science projects funded by the stimulus program.

The proposed work will help scholars design future social science projects and help funding agencies develop a better understanding of the way in which science investments work their way through the scientific enterprise.