Innovation in an Aging Society

Time Frame


Total Funding to Date



  • Vetle Torvik

The U.S. scientific workforce is aging - the average age of both US academics and medical school faculty increased to the late 40s, from the early 40s in 1970. This aging is troubling because people are seen to make important scientific contributions early in their careers. Moreover, the U.S. is turning to innovation as an economic driver, and the aging of the population will both increase and shift the demand for biomedical innovation. This Program Project will develop and disseminate an interrelated body of research on the production and impact of research in an aging society along with the data infrastructure necessary to catalyze the development of a dynamic research community studying innovation at the individual-level and aging and innovation. Our research will be organized around 2 broad, interrelated issues: (1) We will project how the aging scientific workforce will affect the quantity and quality of innovation and policy responses. We will study how innovation varies over the lifecycle, and how a) the age-structure of research teams and communities; b) life-cycle events from training to retirement; and c) researcher characteristics (gender, race, and ethnicity) mediate the age-innovation relationship. (2) We will study the health impacts of and local economic spillovers from research and how the aging biomedical research workforce will affect health and the economy. We will also study how the aging of our population will affect the demand for biomedical research and how researchers will respond. Supported by 3 cores providing (A) Administration, (B) Data Acquisition and Construction, and (C) Program Development, our multi-disciplinary team will produce a comprehensive analysis and catalyze research on innovation in an aging society. Complementing this work, we will produce a wide range of data and tools, including a large-scale, disambiguated, longitudinal dataset on biomedical researchers that will not only support the projects, but provide infrastructure for the research community.

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aging society

Funding Agencies

  • National Bureau of Economic Research, 2013 – $569,272.00