Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


The economics of a research program : knowledge production, cost, and technical efficiency Public Deposited

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  • Calls continually are made to provide economic assessments of research program achievements and efficiency. Yet little effort has been given to develop an assessment framework that would focus on the research discovery itself, treating the research manager as a producer and the research technology as a knowledge production function. The present dissertation develops such a framework and uses it, with a variety of analytical approaches, to evaluate a two-phase international aquacultural research program consisting of 55 distinct studies. A Bayesian knowledge measure is developed for this purpose, allowing close examination of each of two knowledge creation pathways – the extent of new findings (mean surprise) and the extent of uncertainty reduction (precision). Factors affecting each of these two pathways are estimated in decomposed form, their total effects on knowledge achievement then combined to form an aggregate knowledge production function. Team workload, education level, and scientist travel distance strongly affect knowledge creation as postulated, although exhibiting varying effect magnitudes and significances across the two program phases. A research study's analytical approach significantly affects its knowledge acquisition pathways, accounting partially for the newness of its scientific discoveries. Survey studies tend, in contrast, to have greater potential for new findings, but yield greater uncertainty than do experimental studies. In each of the two program phases, fish market trading and water quality are, in my output-elasticities-based approach, respectively the least productive topic area and research-outcome dimension. Asian researchers appear – compared to their colleagues in South America and Africa – to achieve the highest predictive precision but the least mean surprise, probably because of the greater maturity of their projects. In both program phases, estimated output elasticities imply increasing knowledge returns to scale, although the elasticities decline from 3.52 in Phase I to 1.07 in Phase II. The dual cost function approach provides indirect insight into the program manager’s investment decisions and to the returns to knowledge output, complementing the primal approach. In my cost-based approach, knowledge cost elasticities are below unity, estimated at 0.49 in Phase II and 0.37 in Phase I, consistent with the increasing returns to scale found in the output-elasticities-based approach. Given the increasing returns to scale estimated with both approaches, the aquacultural program appears to have a substantial incentive to enlarge its knowledge investments. Also consistent with duality, the least-output-productive fish-trade topic area, water-quality outcome, and Asian research are found in my cost analysis to be the most cost-consuming. The technical efficiencies of the aquacultural program's individual studies are also examined, relative to both one another and to their own potentially best practices. The examination is conducted using, successively, the Farrell input technical efficiency measure and the directional sum-distance measure. Results are consistent across these two efficiency instruments, confirming the conclusions about output and cost elasticities in the previous chapters and providing a completeness to the overall research evaluation.
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