The value of economic research

David Zilberman, Amir Heiman
independent impact assessment report

Economic research generates a wide array of benefits. These include information, technological change, and improved policy. There are few quantitative studies of the benefits of economic research, and some benefits may be misattributed to biological and physical research. To be productive, economic research must be transmitted and the user must be able to use it. Therefore, investment in extension outreach and economic literacy are important to improve its impact. Even casual observation suggests that economic research is valuable, but noneconomists must be convinced of this. Since benefits are likely to be concentrated in a small number of successful projects, a useful approach to the assessment of the benefits of research is to identify these projects and their results. The analysis must recognize that the accuracy of any estimates of benefits is uncertain. In addition, the argument behind the estimates should be transparent, relying on documentation and testimony from users, policymakers, and noneconomists. Assessments of the benefits of economic research provide information that can be used both to justify support for economic research and to allocate monies among lines of research.