Measuring federal science ROI….

Behind the pay-wall, but well worth it: from Paul Baskin, in the Chronicle, here.  Money quote:

And yet, after years of trying, the science community still cannot answer a simple question, one that has gained the growing attention of policy makers as the economy limps along: How much payback, in real dollars, does science spending actually provide?

Turns out the answer to this question is not exactly easy to get at. You can readily underestimate it by acting as if federal science R&D was just like building a highway (and that’s what NIH Director Francis Collins apparently does), but to get at the real value, you need to explore the provenance of just about every item made or sold–from iPhones to Boeing jets.

Is it worth doing? I think the answer is yes. Society needs to understand concretely what it’s buying in order to continue spending the big bucks (and yes, the US is still the giant when it comes to this kind of research investment).

So here’s a bleg: how might we turn this into a Fermi Problem?