A Recap on the Google Conference
The Fung Institute ran a workshop on Innovation Metrics at Google on March 3, with support from Hal Varian and Barbara Phillips at Google, Catherine Fazio and Terri Park of the MIT Lab for Innovation Science and Policy, and Javier Miranda of the Center for Economic Studies at the US Census (also many thanks to Hazel Palaski of the Fung Institute who helped with logistics). The intent of the workshop was to share new data and recent research on measuring innovation and discuss what we should do as a community going forward.
Jay Bhattacharya from the Stanford Medical School illustrated a slight positive correlation between novelty and journal ranking (better journals are more likely to publish articles with new words), however, there is a great deal of variation.
Jeff Oldham of Google (and a member of the Fung Institute Advisory Board) asked the audience what they would like to see in Google patent products. We gave him a long wish list!
Alan Marco, Chief Economist from the USPTO, described recent research there to understand how claim language changes in the application process. He found that, on average, longer claims and fewer independent claims correspond to narrower patents.
Carol Robbins (with Jon Jankowski virtual) from US Census described recent revisions to our measurement of firms’ innovations, namely, the BRDIS survey (Business R&D and Innovation Survey). Jas Sekhon suggested vignette anchors to make surveys across industries and countries more comparable.
Jay Yonamine and Ian Wetherbee from Google took things in a very different direction. The illustrated a new tool that took the non-patent literature and clustered it according to 64 patenting classifications. The data are already available to scholars and practitioners.
Wes Cohen of Duke described his efforts to make surveys more accurate. He’s found that most innovation is done by consumers (music to Eric von Hippel’s ears) but that consumer innovation is often not valuable to firms. Maryann Feldman provided insights as our current sciSIP (Science of Science Policy) NSF director.
Javier Miranda of the Center for Economic Studies, UC Census, documented the steady decline in entrepreneurship over the last two decades (hard to believe living near the Valley, but Javi’s data are consistent with Kauffman work as well).
Hal Varian responded to Javier’s work by describing how the bursting of the dot com bubble was good for some; lots of great engineers were willing to join a startup named Google and work for equity. In between bites, Bronwyn Hall basically ran the intellectual agenda by asking hard questions and reminding us of prior research.
Jason Owen-Smith of Michigan described the great work going on at IRIS, the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science. Jason and Julia Lane and others are pulling together personnel records and accounting details from major research universities, which should give us a better understanding of how Federal support of science benefits our economy. Though as Jason points out, it is very difficult to pinpoint the individual impact of each grant, within the cumulative support of the surrounding community.
Bruce Weinberg from Ohio State described his research on aging and transformative research; his team sees how mid career people move towards hot areas, essentially voting with their feet.
I described the Fung Institute’s work on novel words in the patent corpora and investigation and modeling of blocking actions.
Thank you all for a great afternoon!