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Are there scale economies in scientific production? On the topic of locally increasing returns to scale

: Schubert, Torben


Scientometrics 99 (2014), No.2, pp.393-408
ISSN: 0138-9130
ISSN: 1588-2861
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ISI ()
research units; specialisation; production; efficiency; returns to scale; DEA

In this paper the question of returns to scale in scientific production is analysed using non-parametric techniques of multidimensional efficiency measurement. Based on survey data for German research groups from three scientific fields, it is shown that the multidimensional production possibility sets are weakly non-convex and locally strictly non-convex. This suggests that the production functions for the groups in the sample are characterised by increasing returns to scale in some regions and at least constant returns to scale otherwise. This has two implications for the organisation of scientific research: first, the size of at least some groups in our sample is suboptimal and they would benefit from growth. Second, greater specialisation in certain tasks in science (e.g. transfer-oriented groups vs. research-oriented groups) would increase the output of the overall system.