• Article

US federal laboratories and their research partners


Chen, C., Link, A. N., & Oliver, Z. T. (2018). US federal laboratories and their research partners: A quantitative case study. Scientometrics, 115(1), 501-517. DOI: 10.1007/s11192-018-2665-2


The Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 made explicit the technology transfer responsibilities of U.S. Federal laboratories. The Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 and the National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act of 1989 further enhanced the technology transfer activities of laboratories by permitting Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). However, very little is known about the characteristics of CRADA activity in Federal laboratories. Using a new, robust dataset of CRADA activity at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), we describe research partnerships over the years 1978 through 2014, and we explore several research questions. When did the Federal Technology Transfer Act have an impact on CRADA activity at NIST? Is CRADA activity at NIST a cyclical phenomenon? At what frequency do private sector establishments engage in CRADA activity with NIST? We find suggestive evidence that the Federal Technology Transfer Act began to influence NIST's CRADA activity within 2-3 years after its passage, and we find that CRADA activity moves with the business cycle. We also find that most establishments that were engaged in CRADA activity were engaged only once over this time period; it was only the larger establishments that continued to engage in CRADAs with NIST. We speculate about the implications of these findings, and we suggest a broader research agenda into CRADA activity in Federal laboratories.