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Public Use and Public Funding of Science, Nature Human Behaviour


Knowledge of how science is consumed in public domains remains limited yet is essential for a deeper understanding of the role of science in human society. While science is heavily supported by public funding, common depictions suggest that scientific research remains an isolated or ‘ivory tower’ activity, with weak connectivity to public uses and little correspondence between the funding of science and its public interest. Here we integrate five large-scale datasets that link scientific publications from all scientific fields to their upstream funding support and downstream public uses across three public domains -- government documents, the news media, and marketplace invention. By analyzing how scientific knowledge is consumed beyond science, we uncover three key findings. (1) Scientific fields find individually specialized yet collectively diverse usage in public domains; some fields dominate in government documents, others in the news media, and yet others in downstream invention. (2) Public usage universally emphasizes high-impact science; across all fields and each public domain, the papers that receive attention tend to be highly cited by scientists themselves, showing substantial alignment between what the public consumes and what is impactful within science. (3) The funding of science across fields is sharply predictable based on its combined use in the three public domains we studied, documenting a remarkable yet previously unknown consistency between public investment and public uses of science. Overall, public uses of science present a rich landscape of specialized consumption, yet collectively there is remarkable, quantifiable alignment between public use, scientific use, and science funding.




Yian Yin, Yuxiao Dong, Kuansan Wang, Dashun Wang, Benjamin F. Jones

Date Published



Yin, Yian, Yuxiao Dong, Kuansan Wang, Dashun Wang, and Benjamin F. Jones. 2022. Public Use and Public Funding of Science. Nature Human Behaviour.: 1344–1350.


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