This study by Kumal Sen outlines the main challenges facing the measurement of the rate of return to research:
- The attribution problem -did the research influence policy?
- The identification problem -did the policy intervention or reform lead to the desired/observed outcome?
- The measurement problem -can benefits of the outcomes be quantified?
He consideres these problems in different sectors (agriculture, health, economics and social policy, infrastructure, climate change and governance) and concluded, rather obviously, that if these are satisfactorily addressed the more likely it will be to calculate the return to research.
More important though is that he concludes that:
- There are credible proxy rates of return to agricultural and health research;
- There are credible ways to calculate proxy rates of return to infrastructure, economic and social policy research; but
- There are no credible ways to calculate proxy rates of return to climate change and governance research.