Wednesday, September 2, 2020

DuPont published more in JACS than Caltech in the 1960s?

The scale of the change since the 1970s is huge—big businesses have retreated from research. In the 1960s, DuPont, the chemicals giant, published more in the Journals of the American Chemical Society than both MIT and Caltech combined. R&D magazine, which awards the R&D 100 to the hundred innovations it judges most innovative in a given four year period, gave 41% of its awards to Fortune 500 companies in its 1971 iteration and 47% in 1975. By 2006, 6% of the awards were going to firms in the Fortune 500. The great majority of these awards are now being won by federal labs, university teams, and spin-offs from academia. The lone inventor is back. 
This is reflected by declines in the shares of patents going to the biggest businesses, and in the shares of scientists working there. In 1971 just over seven per cent of scientists in industry tracked by the US National Science Foundation worked in firms with under 1,000 employees; by 2004 this was 32%. In 2003 around a quarter worked at firms with fewer than ten employees. Even pharmaceuticals, the one area where large internal research labs are still significant, has been affected—around half of the drugs approved so far in the 2010s were originally discovered by small biotech startups.
I suspect there are a lot of changes as to why companies have slowed their publishing in the scientific literature. It's worth a read. 


  1. I read that yesterday. Great piece. Looks like we missed the golden age of industrial research! :)

  2. Many of the comments ring true from my experience in a corporate research lab.

    Another take on the decline of this type of institution is that there was a shift (in the 90s and 00s especially) toward trading IP with other companies, rather than finding markets or developing partnerships. Then came the age of acquisitions.

    Where I worked, it became clear that we were generating IP to be used as a bargaining chip with our competitors, and that in turn, our employer was more interested in acquiring small companies with interesting technology than in developing the long-range vision to grow it at home.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20