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UMass Economist Ina Ganguli Participates in Forum on ‘Universities as Engines of Growth’

Ina Ganguli
Ina Ganguli

Ina Ganguli, professor of economics and director of the UMass Computational Social Science Institute, participated in a virtual forum on May 15 examining how federal funding of science, particularly through universities, pays off in terms of commercial outcomes. The session was part of the Innovation Policy Forum hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Ganguli, whose research focuses on labor economics and the economics of science and innovation, led a discussion about two working papers exploring the topic: “The Effect of Public Science on Corporate R&D,” co-authored by Ashish Arora, professor at Duke University, and “Measuring the Commercial Potential of Science,” co-authored by Wesley M. Cohen, also a professor at Duke.

Arora’s paper explores the relationships between corporate research and development, and three components of public science: knowledge, human capital and inventions produced by universities. Cohen’s paper uses large language models to develop a prospective measure of the commercial potential of academic science.

Ganguli noted that both papers make significant contributions to the understanding of how academic research translates into economic growth. She explained that Arora’s paper provides useful information about the effects of federally funded research at universities on corporate innovation and highlights the important role of graduate students.

Regarding Cohen’s paper, which uses machine learning methods on the text of scientific articles and whether they are cited in renewed patents, she pointed out that the authors go to great lengths to externally validate their measure—underscoring the quality of their findings. “As a field, I think it’s really great that we’re spending a lot of time on how these tools are developed,” Ganguli said. 

She added that both papers provide ample opportunities for further exploration and analysis. 

“These papers provide new datasets and measures that will help us better understand the different ways university research impacts the economy, as well as the barriers to the commercialization of potentially impactful research,” she said.

The National Academies’ Innovation Policy Forum brings together representatives of government, industry, national laboratories, research institutes and universities from the United States and around the world to explore current challenges and opportunities for U.S. innovation policy. The forum has convened workshops on a variety of topics since 2013.