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Lessons Learned About the Methodology of Economic Impact Studies



Gregory C. Tassey


Pressures on U. S. government S&T agencies to measure the economic impacts of their research programs have increased due to general pressures on the discretionary portion of the Federal budget and specific pressures to comply with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). A research institute such as NIST has some advantages over basic research agencies because its programs support specific technologies being developed by industry and thus NIST can adopt many of the same metrics used by industry. However, the length of the typical research project at NIST makes annual reporting against a single, limited set of metrics-as desired by GPRA-virtually impossible. Thus, short-term and intermediate-term performance measures must be used to provide mid-course impact data until the project has matured sufficiently to allow bottom-line measures such as change in value-added, productivity, new sales ratios, etc., to be estimated. Although results from over 20 NIST studies show high rates of economic impact, such a sample is neither representative nor comprehensive enough to allow generalizations. Instead, the results provide quantitative and qualitative impact information on the several classes of technical infrastructure produced by NIST laboratories which, when combined with other management-relevant data such as peer review, can provide policy makers with timely and effective information.
Evaluation and Program Planning


economic impact, government laboratories, government policy, GPRA, impact assessment, indicators, performance metrics, S&T policy, technology policy


Tassey, G. (2008), Lessons Learned About the Methodology of Economic Impact Studies, Evaluation and Program Planning (Accessed June 13, 2024)


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Created October 16, 2008