New CIC Data Reveals University Research Impacts Local, State, and National Economies

Dec 10, 2015
A decade ago, the late Jack Marburger, a physicist and former college president who served as science advisor to President George W. Bush, challenged academics to come up with scientific evidence on the impact of federal research investment. Even more adamantly, Congress required the National Science Foundation to “better articulate the value of grants to the national interest.”

Today a study published in Science features data from 8 CIC member universities, and shows one way in which federally and non-federally funded investment in research has an effect on the economy.  Inspired by the Robert Oppenheimer saying “The best way to send information is to wrap it up in a person,” researchers use new data from the CIC UMETRICS Project, combined with Census Bureau data, to trace where doctoral recipients get jobs after receiving research training, as well as their subsequent earnings.

Investigating where research-funded PhDs go when they graduate and enter the private sector, the researchers find that recipients of doctorates disproportionately gain placement in large and high-wage entities of the private sector. In many cases, they add, these establishments are clustered near the universities where the doctoral recipients conducted their funded research and received their training – thereby contributing to local and national economic growth.

The study, entitled “Wrapping it up in a person: Examining employment and earnings outcomes for PhD recipients,” captures with an array of data what the researchers call the “human dimension” of the impact of funded research on the economy. The study marks a major milestone in the authors’ collaborative effort over the past seven years to determine how to measure the economic effects of research funding meaningfully, and to replace rough estimates with firmly quantifiable metrics.

"We know that knowledge is transferred from the university to the marketplace through the people that are trained in academic settings, and who then move into other businesses and sectors. Our research demonstrates that a large portion of those PhD recipients we studied stay in the state where they received their education, and earn higher wages than the national average. This adds an important dimension to our understanding of the ways in which research universities impact their surrounding communities and the nation at large.,” said study co-author, CIC Executive Director Barbara McFadden Allen.

With the help of this data, the researchers are able to describe the 2010-2012 earnings of 3,197 PhD recipients funded on research grants at 8 CIC universities: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State, and Wisconsin. 40 percent of these individuals took jobs in the private sector; the other PhD recipients went on to jobs in academia or government.  Those entering private industry “disproportionately get jobs at large and high wage establishments in high tech and professional service industries,” according to the study. 

The study finds that engineers and computer scientists whose doctoral research was federally or non-federally funded are most likely to go to young firms.  Across all of the science fields, the doctoral recipients who go into the private sector are more likely to go to establishments with high payrolls-per-worker and other business characteristics associated with high productivity.

The data also show the mean earnings for those PhD recipients who subsequently find jobs in academia and government, in addition to the private sector.  Across all job sectors, the fields with the highest earners for recent graduates are mathematics/computer sciences and engineering.  Earnings are not high for those with a PhD in biology, which the researchers suggest may be due to so many initially taking jobs as postdoctoral researchers in life sciences.

Incubated by the CIC and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan and Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundations, UMETRICS is now managed by the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

Co-authors of the paper included Barbara McFadden Allen of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, Professors Julia Lane of New York University, Bruce Weinberg of Ohio State University, Jason Owen-Smith of the University of Michigan, Rebecca Rosen, Nikolas Zolas, Nathan Goldschlag, Ron Jarmin, and Paula Stephan.

For more: Please see the complete article, visit UMETRICS, or IRIS    


Barbara McFadden Allen
Executive Director
Committee on Institutional Cooperation


About the CIC
The CIC is the nation's premier higher education consortium of top-tier research institutions, including the Big Ten Conference members and the University of Chicago. Through collaboration CIC members save money, share assets, and increase teaching, learning and research opportunities. Founded in 1958, CIC members engage in voluntary, sustained partnerships such as library collections and access collaborations; technology collaborations to build capacity at reduced costs; purchasing and licensing collaborations through economies of scale; leadership and development programs for faculty and staff; programs that allow students to take courses at other institutions; and study-abroad collaborations. For more information, please visit