This course begins by establishing fundamental ways in which ideas differ from other goods. The course then uses these concepts to evaluate the origins of economic growth, the role of science and science institutions, innovation incentives (through market structure, intellectual property, and organizational practices), the diffusion of innovations and their implications for inequality, and the geography of innovation. Though squarely anchored in the economics discipline, the course will also draw on the sociology of science, particularly classic Mertonian frameworks for understanding the scientific incentive system, scientific labor markets, and scientific norms.
The course will consist of 10 Zoom lectures on Tuesdays: January 30; February 6, 13, 20, 27; March 5, 12, 19, 26; and April 2 from 1:30 – 3:30pm EST.
The course will introduce both macroeconomic and microeconomic approaches for assessing the “ideas production function,” with special attention to the roles of human capital, institutions, and incentive systems. The course emphasizes how the unusual characteristics of ideas can result in social inefficiency, and how the microeconomic and institutional environment influences the gap between private and social welfare. Altogether, in tandem with theoretical approaches, this course substantially reviews core empirical literature, including a modern array of methods and data sets that are suited to studying ideas and innovation, and aims to provide students with an extensive toolkit to undertake innovation research.
Who can register for the course?
Our target audience is current or recent students who have completed at least one year of a PhD program in economics or related fields. Acceptance, however, is not guaranteed. To register, we ask for (1) a very short statement (not a recommendation letter) from an academic advisor or administrator on his/her official letterhead certifying that you are regularly enrolled in a PhD program or evidence you have completed a PhD in economics or closely related field; and (2) a one-page summary of a paper broadly in the innovation field which you particularly liked together with some brief remarks on why the paper inspired you to want to learn more about the economics of ideas, science, and innovation. Such a paper does not have to be listed in this syllabus, should be relatively recent, and should not include any of the course coordinators listed above as an author.
- In spite of the fact that the course will be delivered on Zoom, this is not a MOOC, but rather is a real course; participation is expected. Registration will be free, but attendance and engagement is required. It is the responsibility of students to secure a quiet location, with adequate internet access, and to turn (and leave) their webcam on. If you are interested in the material but unable to commit to attending every lecture and reading group meeting, faculty will be making slides publicly available on our course website.
- This is a (second) pilot meant partly to assess demand for such a course.
The course has four main components:
- Weekly zoom lectures
- Weekly small group paper reading clubs
- Online happy hours
- Class slack channel
The course will consist of 10 two-hour synchronous zoom lectures on Tuesday January 30; February 6, 13, 20, 27; March 5, 12, 19, 26; and April 2 from 1:30-3:30pm EST.
We want our lectures to be participatory, and so ask students to attend with cameras on, ready to discuss the readings. Specifically, reading groups will be assigned specific papers to read, and we will call on group members during lecture to discuss papers. Lectures will not be recorded, though we will post slides.
Small Group Paper Reading Clubs
You will be assigned to a group of 3-4 students in nearby timezones. Each week, we will assign a paper to your group. You should arrange to meet via zoom with your group prior to class to discuss this paper. This discussion should center on:
- What question is the paper trying to answer?
- Why should we care?
- How does the paper try to answer this question?
- What do you think the paper did well?
- What criticisms do you have of the paper?
We will call on groups during lecture to discuss the papers they read.
Online Happy Hours
After each lecture, there will generally be an opportunity to meet with the course instructor in a smaller group setting.
We will cap the number of attendees at each of these events. You should rank your preference over these meetings using the pre-class survey you will have received in your email. Note attendance of these happy hours is optional.
Class Slack Channel
Upon completion of the pre-class survey, you should receive an invitation to sign up for the course slack channel. We hope you will use this to communicate with the instructors and other students in a more informal setting than will be possible during the course lectures. In lieu of office hours, please post questions and comments about the course content directly to the slack channel, which the instructors will be monitoring.
The course website remains ifp.org/economics-of-ideas. We will be posting course slides here, as well as our reading list.
If you have any questions about the course in general, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Class 1||Introduction to the Economics of Ideas||January 30||Benjamin Jones|
|Class 2||Idea-Based Models of Economic Growth||February 6||Chad Jones|
|Class 3||Economics of Science||February 13||Kyle Myers|
|Class 4||Open Science as an Economic Institution||February 20||Matt Clancy|
|Class 5||Contracting and Control Rights for Innovation||February 27||Pierre Azoulay|
|Class 6||The Supply of Innovators||March 5||Ina Ganguli|
|Class 7||Innovation Policy||March 12||John Van Reenen|
|Class 8||Immigration and Innovation||March 19||Heidi Williams|
|Class 9||Patent Policy||March 26||Janet Freilich|
|Class 10||Wrap-Up: Advice on Research and Careers||April 2||Matt Clancy, Caleb Watney, Heidi Williams|
Introduction to the Economics of Ideas
- Arrow, Kenneth. “Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention.” In The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors (1962). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 609-625.
- Jones, Benjamin F. and Summers, Lawrence H. “A Calculation of the Social Returns to Innovation.” In Innovation and Public Policy, University of Chicago Press (2021).
- Bloom, Nicholas, Schankerman, Mark, and Van Reenen, John. “Identifying Technology Spillovers and Product Market Rivalry.” Econometrica 81(4) (2013): 1347-1393.
- Jones, Benjamin F. “The Burden of Knowledge and the ‛Death of the Renaissance Man’: Is Innovation Getting Harder?” Review of Economic Studies 76(1) (2009): 283-317.
Idea-Based Models of Economic Growth
- Bloom, Nicholas, Jones, Charles I., Van Reenen, John, and Webb, Michael. “Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?” American Economic Review 110, no. 4 (2020): 1104-1144.
- Jones, Charles I. “Growth and Ideas.” Handbook of Economic Growth 1B (2005): 1063-1111.
- Jones, Charles I. “Recipes and Economic Growth: A Combinatorial March Down an Exponential Tail. NBER Working Paper #28340, (2021).
- Jones, Charles I. “The Past and Future of Economic Growth: A Semi-Endogenous Perspective.” Annual Review of Economics 14, (2022): 125-152.
- Romer, Paul M. “Endogenous Technological Change.” Journal of Political Economy 98, no. 5 (1990): S71-S102.
Economics of Science
- Acemoglu, Daron. “Diversity and technological progress.” The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited (2011). University of Chicago Press, 319-356.
- Azoulay, Pierre, Li, Danielle, Graff Zivin, Joshua S., and Sampat, Bhaven N. “Public R&D Investment and Private Sector Patenting: Evidence from NIH Funding Rules.” The Review of Economic Studies 86, no. 1 (2019): 117-152.
- Bloom, Nicholas, Schankerman, Mark, and Van Reenen, John. “Identifying Technology Spillovers and Product Market Rivalry.” Econometrica 81, no. 4 (2013): 1347-1393.
- Myers, Kyle. “The Elasticity of Science.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 12, no. 4 (2020): 103-134.
- Myers, Kyle, and Lanahan, Lauren. “Estimating Spillovers from Publicly-Funded R&D: Evidence from the US Department of Energy.” American Economic Review 112, no. 7 (2022): 2393-2423.
Open Science as an Economic Institution
- Aghion, Philippe, Dewatripont, Mathias, and Stein, Jeremy C. . “Academic Freedom, Private Sector Focus, and the Process of Innovation.” RAND Journal of Economics 39(3) (2008): 617-635.
- Ahmadpoor, Mohammad, and Jones, Benjamin F. “The Dual Frontier: Patented Inventions and Prior Scientific Advance.” Science 357(6531) (2017): 583-587.
- Azoulay, Pierre, Fons-Rosen, Christian, and Graff Zivin, Joshua S. “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?” American Economic Review 109(8) (2019): 2889-2920.
- Dasgupta, Partha, and Paul, David. “Towards a New Economics of Science.” Research Policy 23(5) (1994): 487-521.
Contracting and Control Rights for Innovation
- Aghion, Philippe, and Tirole, Jean. “The Management of Innovation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 109(4) (1994): 1185-1209.
- Azoulay, Pierre, Graff Zivin, Joshua, and Manso, Gustavo. “Incentives and Creativity: Evidence from the Academic Life Sciences.” RAND Journal of Economics 42(3) (2011): 527-554.
- Lerner, Joshua, and Malmendier, Ulrike. “Contractibility and the Design of Research Agreements.” American Economic Review 100(1) (2010): 214-246.
- Manso, Gustavo. “Motivating Innovation.” Journal of Finance 66(5) (2011): 1823-1860.
The Supply of Innovators
- Agarwal, R. and Gaule, P., Invisible geniuses: Could the knowledge frontier advance faster? American Economic Review: Insights, 2(4) (2020): 409-24.
- Bell, Alexander M., Chetty, Raj, Jaravel, Xavier, Petkova, Neviana, and Van Reenen, John. “Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 134(2) (2019): 647-713.
- Ganguli, I., Gaulé, P. and Čugalj, D.V., Chasing the academic dream: Biased beliefs and scientific labor markets. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 202 (2022): 17-33.
- Waldinger, Fabian. “Bombs, Brains, and Science: The Role of Human and Physical Capital for the Production of Scientific Knowledge,” The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 98, no. 5 (2016): 811-831
- Akcigit, Ufuk, Grigsby, John, Nicholas, Tom, and Stantcheva, Stefanie. “Taxation and Innovation: What Do We Know?” In Innovation and Public Policy, edited by Benjamin Jones and Austan Goolsbee, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2022).
- Bloom, Nicholas, Van Reenen, John, and Schankerman, Mark. “Identifying Technology Spillovers and Product Market Rivalry.” Econometrica 81, no. 4 (2013): 1347–1393.
- Bloom, Nicholas, Van Reenen, John, and Williams, Heidi. “A Toolkit of Policies to Promote Innovation.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 33, no. 3 (2019): 163–184.
- Dechezleprêtre, Antoine, Einiö, Elias, Martin, Ralf, Nguyen, Kieu-Trang, and Van Reenen, John. “Do tax incentives for research increase firm innovation? An RD Design for R&D.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, forthcoming.
- Kerr, Sari and Kerr, William R. “Immigration Policy Levers for US Innovation and Start-Ups.” In Innovation and Public Policy, edited by Benjamin Jones and Austan Goolsbee, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2022).
Immigration and Innovation
- Azoulay, Pierre, ones, Ben, Kim, J. Daniel, and Miranda, Javier. “Immigration and Entrepreneurship in the United States.” American Economic Review: Insights 4, no. 1 (2022): 71-88.
- Bernstein, Shai, Diamond, Rebecca, Jiranaphawiboon, Abhisit, McQuade, Tim, and Pousada, Beatriz. “The Contribution of High-Skilled Immigrants to Innovation in the United States.” Working paper (2022).
- Glennon, Britta. “How Do Restrictions on High-Skilled Immigration Affect Offshoring? Evidence from the H-1B Visa Program.” Management Science (2023).
- Peri, Giovanni. “The Effect of Immigration on Productivity: Evidence from U.S. States.” Review of Economics and Statistics 94, no. 1 (2012): 348-358.
- Prato, Marta. “The Global Race for Talent: Brain Drain, Knowledge Transfer, and Economic Growth.” Working paper.
- Feng, Josh and Jaravel, Xavier. “Crafting Intellectual Property Rights: Implications for Patent Assertion Entities, Litigation, and Innovation.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 12(1) (2020):140-181
- Freilich, Janet and Kim, Soomi. “Is the Patent System Sensitive to Incorrect Information?” The Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming)
- Hall, Bronwyn and Ziedonis, Rosemarie. “The Patent Paradox Revisited: An Empirical Study of Patenting in the U.S. Semiconductor Industry, 1979-1995.” RAND Journal of Economics 32(1) (2001):101-128
- Hemphill, C. Scott and Sampat, Bhaven. “When do Generics Challenge Drug Patents?” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 8(4) (2011): 613-649
- U.S. Patent No. 4,833,729
Wrap-Up: Advice on Research and Careers
Matt Clancy, Caleb Watney, Heidi Williams
- Bryan, Kevin and Heidi Williams. “Innovation: Market Failures and Public Policies.” Chapter 13 in Kate Ho, Ali Hortascu, and Alessandro Lizzeri Handbook of Industrial Organization 5, no. 1 (2021): 281-388.
- Clancy, Matt, Correa, Dan, Dworkin, Jordan, Niehaus, Paul, Watney, Caleb, and Williams, Heidi. “To Speed Scientific Progress, Understand How Science Policy Works.” Nature 620 (2023): 724-726.
- Garcia, Cardiff. Interview with Heidi Williams and Caleb Watney. The New Bazaar. Podcast audio. May 18, 2022. https://www.bazaaraudio.com/the-new-bazaar/the-economics-of-innovation.
- Niehaus, Paul and Williams, Heidi. “Developing the Science of Science.” Works in Progress 09, 2022.