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Federal research development expenditures in science and engineering: Implications for men and women seeking employment and postdoctoral study

Elizabeth A Moorhouse, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Federal research and development expenditures in science and engineering create employment opportunities and thus benefit those searching for employment in these fields. Federal dollars funding basic research is primarily awarded by the merit review system which relies on external reviewers to award funds. Research in Sweden demonstrates that this system may be biased against women. Federal dollars funding applied research are more commonly awarded through manager discretion. This method is noted for its stricter accountability and more defined evaluation criteria and may be less biased. Consequently, federal expenditures on applied research may reduce the percent of women searching employment more so than federal expenditures on basic research. ^ In addition, research has shown that postdoctoral positions are reserved for graduates who could not secure more desirable employment elsewhere. Queueing theory suggests that the most desirable employment is secured by employers' most preferred workers. If women are less valued as employees in these fields, women will be channeled into lesser desirable postdoc positions in greater magnitudes than men. ^ The focus of this dissertation is on the following questions: (1) Because of the potential bias in the merit review system and the system's connection to basic research, does the federal support of applied research do more to assist women in their search for employment and postdoctoral study than the federal support of basic research? (2) When searching for post-graduate employment, are men and women channeled into the secondary postdoc labor market in similar magnitudes? (3) More generally, would an alternative method of distributing federal research funds less reliant on merit review assist women in more fully participating in these fields? ^ The evidence suggests that funds distributed through manager discretion methods significantly reduces the percent of women seeking employment more consistently than funds distributed through the merit review system. Consistent with the queueing theory, there is some support for the notion that women are channeled into postdoctoral positions in greater magnitudes than men. ^

Subject Area

Economics, Labor|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations|Gender Studies

Recommended Citation

Moorhouse, Elizabeth A, "Federal research development expenditures in science and engineering: Implications for men and women seeking employment and postdoctoral study" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3258405.